by Jim Harrington

string-of-10-logo7

FFC’s annual String-of-10 Contest begins Sunday, February 8, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends on Sunday, February 15, at 11:59 P.M. PST. The winning entry will be the best 250 (or fewer)-word story written from a randomly selected string of ten words.

GUEST JUDGE

Meg-Tuite_bio-photo_april-2012

I am pleased to announce that this year’s Guest Judge will be Meg Tuite. Meg’s writing has appeared in over 300 journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, Epiphany, Superstition Review, JMWW, One, the Journal, Prick of the Spindle, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist in the Glimmer Train short story writer’s contest twice.

She is fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press, author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press, Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books, Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry Award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging, (2014), written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College, lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of animals. [from Meg’s website – http://megtuite.com/]

GUIDELINES

The contest is open for eight days only. Anyone may enter. All entries must be in English and submitted through our submission manager. Our regular daily prompts will be suspended during the length of the contest. The complete guidelines will be published with the prompt on February 8.

CONTEST SCHEDULE

2/08 – Contest begins
2/15 – Last day for submissions
3/15 – Winners announced
4/02 – Interview with Meg Tuite posted at FFC
4/07 – Winning story posted at EDF / Author interview posted at FFC
4/09 – Second place story and interview published at FFC
4/14 – Third place story and interview published at FFC
4/16 – Patricia McFarland Award winning story and interview published at FFC

(With the exception of the submission dates, the schedule may change without notice.)

STRING-OF-10 SEVEN FLASH FICTION CONTEST PRIZES

Multiple prizes will be awarded for each place, including free books, publication and $50 for first place, free books, publication and $20 for second place, publication and $20 for third place, and publication and $25 for the Patricia McFarland Prize winner. The complete list of prizes will be included with the official announcement.

Below are the winning stories from the last two contests to give you an idea of what we like.

Winning stories from String-of-10 SIX

1st Place—Snowman Suicide by Caroline Hall
2nd Place—Private Lessons by John Towler
3rd Place—Foreigner by Alexi Lerner
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize—The Maybe Baby by Alison McBain

Winning stories from String-of-10 FIVE

1st Place—After the Tsunami by Linda Simoni-Wastila
2nd Place—A Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim by Robert Vaughan
3rd Place—Before the Fireworks by Folly Blaine
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize—Jump by Stephen Ramey

 

by Dino Laserbeam

Many writers don’t understand what flash fiction is. It’s not just an extra-short short story; it’s not just a scene—it’s something else entirely. It gives the reader a glimpse into a world or a character, and most of the time, that glimpse is layered into details put forth in very few words.

Because of its short form, flash fiction is home to many twist endings: an extra something to make up for lack of length. Most of the time, it’s done terribly wrong.

Tip #1. Know that twist endings are not a requirement for flash fiction.

It’s a common misconception that flash fiction and microfiction require surprises at the end in order to be satisfying to the reader. This definitely isn’t true. Flash fiction can tell a complete story about real, developed characters without a twist ending. There can be open-ended endings; clean, precise endings; happy or sad endings. And there can also be twist endings. In order to be successful, there doesn’t have to be a twist: there just has to be an ending of some sort. This is a big part of what distinguishes flash fiction from vignettes, which are merely scenes.

Tip #2. Avoid punch lines for the sake of punch lines.

People love to be clever. One way they can do that is by ending a story with not only a twist, but also a joke. Something you as the reader didn’t see coming, and something that might make you chuckle. If you’re telling a story to friends (or an audience during a stand-up routine), this is great. If you’re writing flash fiction, it’s not—not if the punch line is the only thing the story has going for it. Too often, writers sacrifice plot and/or character in the name of cleverness. Just because you’ve done something amusing at the end of a story doesn’t make up for the fact that the characters are underdeveloped, or the plot either doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t make sense, or has giant holes in it. Don’t get me wrong: if you can tell a joke at the end of a great story with true-to-life characters, good for you. Great, in fact. But if you miss out on the other things, it becomes obvious the punch line was the entire point. That might be a clever anecdote, but it’s not a good piece of flash fiction.

Tip #3. Remember point of view.

If something is a surprise to the reader, it ought to be a surprise to the POV character; otherwise, it just rings untrue. It reads as the author withholding information for effect, and it feels like a gimmick.

Tip #4. Don’t be too misleading.

Dropping false clues can be okay, but not when they’re outright lies. Readers are people, too. They don’t like to be messed with. It feels like deception because it is deception. And if you’ve done your job well as a writer and gotten the reader invested, they probably won’t be too happy about the lie. A true and well-planned surprise can be pulled off without leading the reader on emotionally.

Tip #5. People may not want to read your story more than once.

There’s a chance, if readers enjoy the story, and especially if they are surprised by the ending, they might go back and read it again: looking for clues, wondering what they missed, etc. However, beyond that, twist endings are mostly a one-off. Once the reveal’s been made, readers can really never get the same thing out of the story as they did the first time they read it.

Just remember, flash fiction is in many ways the same as any other length story: it requires real characters in an interesting plot with some sort of conclusion. You have far less words to make that happen, but a twist ending is not a good easy out.

____________

Dino Laserbeam is the Editor-in-Chief of freeze frame fiction, a quarterly digital flash fiction publication. With a master’s degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering, Dino is now starting work toward a PhD, writing flash fiction and short stories whenever possible.

 

by Rohini Gupta

Rohini Gupta

So, there you are, trying to write another flash fiction story. You have written hundreds of them—surely it is easy? It’s not easy. It’s not difficult either. The best way I can describe it is—strange.

It’s like waiting for sleep to come. Some nights you are overwhelmed and lost in seconds, on others you count early morning bird calls and try not to look at the clock yet again.

Neither sleep nor story will come to heel on demand. They are, in fact, impervious to demands.

The best you can do is tidy up a bit, clear the clutter, make some space in your mind, and hope the weather is right. The mind needs to remain as blank as the page, but it’s an exciting blankness into which an idea can come softly, shyly, tiptoeing on silent feet, lingering in the dark, just out of sight.

A story is a wild animal, like the delicate footprints in Ted Hughes’s The Thought Fox poem. All you can do is wait patiently for it to emerge.

That is what I love about flash fiction—the risk. Never knowing what lurks in the thought forest until it comes out into the white sunlight of the page. Till then you can only guess, and whatever you guess will be way off the mark.

What will it be?

Which genre?

What voice?

Whose viewpoint?

Which words will come pouring out like a crowd of jostling, unruly children?

Who knows? And that is the beauty of it.

You will never know beforehand but one thing is certain.

It will surprise you. It will not be what you expect, barely even in the range of what you can imagine.

There is nothing small about flash fiction except the word count. In the tiny playpen of 1000 words or less, lies a universe of infinite possibility. With flash, and with short stories, every day is a new adventure. The longer forms of writing may not take you so close to the edge. Flash leaves you gasping in the rarefied air, with nothing but a crumbling cliff under your feet. That is the beauty, the sheer breathless risk of it, the dizzying jump off that ledge into depths unknown.

As you teeter at the edge, something will spark. A memory, an image, a character. From the mist, ghostly forms will come. Let them take you.

Fall.

Go ahead, let go. You won’t fall in the same place twice. You won’t even fall in the same world twice.

And, there is usually a story at the end of it.

So, that is what I like most about flash fiction—living dangerously, never knowing the face of that stranger in the deep shadows—your next story.

____________

Rohini Gupta is a writer living by the sea in Mumbai, with a houseful of dogs and cats while working on short stories, poetry and a book. Her blog is at http://wordskies.wordpress.com.

 

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Andree-New

Happy 2015! Wait … we still have one 2014 loose end to tie: the Month in Review! In case you were tied up in wrapping paper or long lines, we want to give you a recap of the many bundles of joy our writers offered last month that you might have missed.

Mary-Jane Holmes got us into the spirit with one swan (as compared to seven) and shared how this lovely, creative, random, and original creature can develop into the best flash you’ve ever created. While we might have hoped for six geese to go along with Mary-Jane’s swan, Julie Duffy’s “A Funny Thing” did provide six delightful tips on how to craft a good comedic write. Or was it humor? Go check it out and decide for yourself.

We had no pear trees either but were treated to a peach of a list of flash fiction markets that each offered treasures of their own. Hopefully in between your holiday dinners and gift-giving you had time to write and these markets anxiously await your work. However, if you’re still agonizing over what you got down on that napkin between courses, know that you aren’t alone: James Claffey shared his thoughts on writing flash fiction and you might be re-inspired by his colorful explanation of his relationship to the genre. But if, like those ten lords rumored to have been jumping around for part of last month, you are leaping to submit your collection of flash fiction, check out the ten interview snippets from Bonnie ZoBell, who got the inside scoop on what some flash fiction editors and publishers say about story order. On the other hand, if you’re a few stories short of a collection, why not consider submitting one story to the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology? Jim Harrington got the particulars from editor Tara L. Masih, who shared that these anthologies collect the best and most innovative stories in a given year.

Some of the best gifts you’ll find in FFC are Susan Tepper’s UNCOV/rd pieces. Be sure to check out December’s offering with Harvey Araton, because it will be the last. Don’t worry — Susan will be back this year with something new, but in the meantime, enjoy her conversation with a journalist-author-who-writes-about-a-journalist.

And speaking of newspapers, Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s piece on inspiration was inspired by a recipe in the New York Times. Well, more to the point: the NYT recipe inspired a story and the whole experience inspired the piece. Get it? As Sarah said, inspiration comes from anywhere and you are sure to ponder the sources of your own as you read her December offering.

As our 2014 clock tick-tocked its way to a close, Aliza Greenblatt took a moment to introduce us to the EDF November top author, Angela Hui, whose story Birthday Girl got rave reviews. Before we close the book on 2014 and send our eleven pipers and twelve drummers back to the band, end your year with a laugh: Sarah Crysl Akhtar’s EDF Archive selection is a great topper from Samantha Memi.

Thank you for making 2014 a great year and we hope you’ll join us for more in flash fiction for 2015!

____________

Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury—both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

 

by Kaye Linden

Kaye Linden

1. Small frame: up to 1500 words. Microfiction is under 250 words.
2. Slice of life stories. The writer takes the big picture and focuses on one angle only.
3. A striking title. Title is the first hook.
4. The first few lines must setup the story. This is the reader’s orientation to the story.
5. The protagonist desires something and this desire must reach its peak by the first third of the story.
6. Kaye’s six C’s rule: Character, Craves something, Cannot have it, Conflict and Consequences, Change.
7. One scene demonstrating the consequences of desire thwarted.
8. Compression of plot, action, dialogue, events and the number and development of characters.
9. Minimalism is what flash is about. The number of characters must be limited to two, three maximum. The choice of characters in flash is about advancement of the story, not for any other reason.
10. There must be a change in the reader’s perception or in the story itself. (Compressed arc)
11. Focus on the arc or narrative line of the piece and establish one strong story line only.
12. Give the story a sense of meaning. What does it really matter if Tom meets Martha?
13. At the end of the story, something must have changed, become understood, resolved.
14. Throw away one word at a time and see how it affects the story. Cut to 100 words initially to find the essence of your story and expand by a few hundred words at a time.
15. What is your storyline in 10 words or less?
16. Begin in Medias Res, in the middle of things. Cut the back-story and dive into the middle of an event.
17. Myths and tales make great stuff for a very short story.
18. Interesting surprises are not mandatory but they provide satisfaction for the reader.
19. Re-invent the cliché: e.g. avoid clichés at all costs.
20. Flash has its own rhythm: shape of words, constructions, phrases, sentences that give flash its pacing.
21. Maintain balance in sentence structure and phrases: short balanced with long, for example.
22. Constriction of time and space demands immediacy and a sense of urgency.
23. Setting and crowds play a character.
24. Ask “what if?” What if John took the left pathway in the woods instead of the right?
25. Ask the question: What is this story really about? Maintain that question throughout the piece and focus the story line on the answer. Whose story is it? Stay with that person’s story.
26. Consider cutting the story, if it feels vague or rambles. Relook at the story line. Is there more than one story there? Keep it consistently that person’s story. Plan of action: always consider cutting your final piece by twenty percent. Cut unessential adverbs and unnecessary adjectives.
27. Cut, organize, add and polish. (The four keys to revision.)
28. Does the writing sound awkward? Relook at tense consistency or point of view. Point of view and tense choices change a story. Try rewriting a paragraph with a different one.
29. The ticking clock─works every time. The pressure to finish in time, defuse the bomb in time, to rescue the girl before she’s murdered etc.
30. Don’t underestimate your reader. Write for the intelligent reader. Do not trick them or offer a stale, clichéd ending that they have seen over and over again. e.g. The butler did it.
31. Each new word or sentence must move the story line forward. Words circle out from a dense story core of meaning and image to a satisfactory ending. Pay attention to the paragraph format and where you place a new paragraph─it is an indication of another step forward in the plot or story.
29. Each word must count and weigh heavy with meaning or imagery. Use concrete details and not generalizations. Instead of “He needed money to eat.” Try: “He lived in a back alley and unless he found a few dollars, he’d go hungry again today.”
32. Substitute concrete detail woven throughout the narrative or demonstrate by action.
33. Dialogue has an important place in flash. Even just one line embedded in a narrative will work. Limit most tags to “said.” Keep dialogue tags simple.
34. Keep events in chronological order, no matter how insignificant the action. “She jumped into the car but wiped the mud off her shoes first.” “She wiped the mud off her shoes and jumped into the car.” Stimulus then response
35. Flash consists of the unsaid, the unwritten, reading between the lines, a hint, a tiny signpost, a suggestion. The reader fills in the emotional/story gaps.
36. Flash lends itself well to experimentation (fixed forms etc.) because you can try any playful writing in a short piece. There’s not a lot of time or emotions invested.
37. Read, read, read shorts and borrow the methods and techniques that work for the major writers.

A few notes about prose poetry:
1. Poetry is not defined by its length, but this is one parameter that helps define flash.
2. Poetry is about language and poetic device such as similes, alliteration, assonance, forms and line breaks.
3. Language in flash is concise and intense as well, but does not flow into poetic device, forms such as villanelles or sonnets. However, one can experiment with tight forms in flash.
4. Flash carries a story line. Poetry does not need to.
5. In poetry, words are emphasized by where they are placed in the line ─ end of line, beginning of line, at line breaks etc.
6. Poetry is partially defined by its line breaks. Flash is not.
7. Narrative poetry and flash fiction can overlap.
8. In poetry, description can be a technique in and of itself and offers an overall image for the reader. In flash, the description must advance the narrative.
9. Poetry does not necessarily have a plot. Flash does, even though it can be compressed.
10. When a reader picks up poetry, he has a different set of expectations than when he/she reads flash fiction. He expects to read a story in a flash piece.
11. Prose poetry usually features full sentences and no forced line breaks. The difference between prose poetry and micro-fiction is up for discussion—generally, prose poetry concentrates more precise attention on language. It’s less narrative than micro-fiction, and asks readers to make larger jumps than micro-fiction might demand.

READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD.

You will hear mistakes, rhythm, pacing, tense and point of view shifts.

Above all, have fun. Kaye Linden

____________

Kaye Linden is an RN with an MFA in fiction writing and is currently enrolled in a second MFA program where she will specialize in short fiction and prose poetry. She is past editor and short fiction editor of the Bacopa Literary Review, current assistant editor for Soundings Review and short fiction teacher at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. Her prolific works are widely published. Kaye’s forty tale magic realism collection about Australia, Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole, her science fiction novel Prasanga and her latest tiny story collection Ten Thousand Miles from Home are available on all store fronts. Please visit Kaye at www.kayelinden.com.

 

 

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