Saturday, October 10, 2009

Flash in the Pan

Flash friction, er...fiction describes the interesting and challenging endeavor to create a complete story using as few words as possible. Not a character sketch, mind you, not a snippet, or scene, but a complete story with all (almost) the assorted components.

Madness. But then, so is writing a 5o thousand word novel in 30 days, and I love doing that.

Most flash comes in at under 1000 words. The die-hards shoot for less, 500, 100, etc. In order to succeed at such an unfathomable task (to a novelist) every word has to count for more than its weight in gold.

To say the writing must be tight is a gross understatement. It has to be hermetically sealed. Flash fiction has little room for flourishes, non-vital ingredients, or poetic dalliances. It has to zip, zing and pow straight to the finish. As such, it's a pretty great exercise in control...absolute, iron-like control. Want tighter writing? Play around with flash for awhile.

You're not interested in writing short-short fiction? Well, neither am I, really, but as an exercise in flexibility, I love it. It makes me pull my hair out in frustration, but that's a good thing, right?

So in the tradition of taking an extreme thing to an even more extreme level, I've been playing around with these Twitter contests held by Book View Cafe. Twitteriffic, I think they call them. The gist is, you get a theme and instructions and then you write a complete story on theme in like 126 characters. Not words, characters--as in including: spaces, punctuation marks, letters...126.

It rocks. I think I'm becoming addicted. My on-theme ideas always require at least four more characters than allowed. Usually ten to 13 more. So, I have to reword, trim, chisel and fidget until I craft something that fits into that blessed Tweet. (doesn't go over the count)

It's like a puzzle.

I love the challenge, the knuckle biting, the ocular bleeding. Well, maybe not the bleeding. Still, writing in 126 characters illustrates just how many of our carefully chosen, beloved, words are completely expendable....oh how we do fluff.

I love words and I won't be undertaking a career writing flash fiction any time soon. But, every time I tweet my entry it reminds me that my fiction could be tighter, and hopefully I can take that with me into the next book.
Thanks, Book View Cafe.


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