#fridayflash fiction part of my site my favorites from this week. I've been thinking about what makes, in my mind a good piece of flash fiction.
I would like to stress the following before diving into this waffle; a lot of what I am saying here is about my own personal taste and it should be read as such. Who am I ? Just some Joe who also churns out some flash fiction at the DAC
I am not a fan of science fiction, so it is rare that I will read a sci-fi piece, however If I read an opening sentence that grabs us, regardless of genre I am more likely to read it through to the end and I think that is where some flash authors fall down. You have such a short space to fit the entire story in and that opening is so important.
A couple of examples of good openings from this weeks #FridayFlash round:
"Joel and Elijah knew they were in trouble even before they left for the bathroom."
This comes from John Wiswell story "The Balrog Looms"
From that we know the characters, we know the premise and we know the location. I am now hooked in and want to know who these people are, why they think they are in trouble and what is going to happen
Another good example, this time from Shannon Esposito and her tale Messenger of Death
"Eric fumbled with the buttons on the arm rest of the stolen Nissan. A blast of humid night air hit him. It smelled like charred beef."
I used to drive an old battered and much loved 1992 Peugeot 405 and switching on the blowers would blast several years of dirt and breaking down plastic into the car, which on a hot night produced one hell of a smell. Reading this opening, I've got the atmosphere in my head, I know who the protagonist is and I have a hook into the story that the car is stolen.
Going back to where I think some authors fall down, is they try and cram too much irrelevant description into that opening
"The desk was made of dark wood with a green leather surface with gold trim" - great! a story about a desk.
I think if we all step back and be honest, flash fiction is not the platform for great original stories. Effectively they are all " then he woke up and it was all a dream " or " and it turned out the person he was sitting next to was a ghost". BUT!!!! it is the place for original storytelling and what I think makes a good piece of flash fiction is the authors ability to steer the reader through the tale, keep them entertained and keep them interested to the end; Whether it be through misdirection, blanketing or just plain out lying!
A good example about steering the reader and misdirection can be found in this flash from Karen Schindler "What a way to go"
One of the other mistakes I think people make is concentrating too much on elements and detail which are not needed in the piece, rather than putting that focus into what we are all here for - storytelling. To play devils advocate for a second , I do think some stories need more detail and I think they would of had been far better off as longer pieces rather than flash. Which is a shame as normally these stories, the author has had a cracking idea, but has lost it by trying to cram it into flash length. I've pulled my return to Break Creek as a potential fridayflash for this very reason (posting this short very soon btw). There are very few authors who can cram entire worlds into a thousand worlds of less , Mazzz In Leeds is a fine example of an author who can.
Next up comes the ending and in all honesty, I think examples of bad endings are few and far between. There are sometimes disappointing endings "It wasn't a ghost, but rather he suffered from a rare translucent skin condition" and I think this goes back to my previous points. If you don't grab the reader in that first second, you don't keep them entertained and you haven't focused on the art of storytelling; then it doesnt really matter if you have the greatest ending or the worst ending - your reader simply won't care.
A fine example of this week , which I think nicely demonstrates all three points I have made is
The Mystery Writer Returns By Tim Vansant and an author that never disappoints in this regard is Laura Eno
So coming to the end of my waffle, there is just one final thing I would like to say which will sound familiar to those who have ever pursued artistic or photographic interests:
"First rule of composition is to break the rules of composition"
PS. Evil cats is always a winning subject.