The more flash fiction I write the more I enjoy it. I also fear it. As if limiting myself to 500 words or less to tell a story weren’t hard enough, last Friday I tried my hand at telling a story in 95-105 words, and today the goal was 100 words exactly.
I thought 100 words give or take 5 was hard enough, but to hit the mark at 100 exactly? Let’s face it, my shopping lists are longer than that.
I foolishly thought, ‘100 words, that should take less time than a 300-500 word story. I mean, it’s 1/3 the length of the low limit, right?’
Uh, yeah… no. It is a lot harder to tell a coherent story in so few words. My first drafts were about 50 words over and I had to whittle it away until it was the right size. It’s was less like painting a picture and a lot more like making a statue.
With a long story you rough in the colors, work the background until it’s done and then add the detailing. Writing the flash fiction was more like carving a statue out of clay, again you rough in the structure, but now it’s more like getting the general shape of the story and then carving away the parts that don’t belong until you reveal the short story beneath.
I remember one of the ladies in my writing circle commenting on how, amazed she was that I could write these really long complex stories, meanwhile I was totally amazed by how much heart she could put into a short story.
To me the secret to writing longer stories is the fact that they are nothing more than a series of short stories (scenes) that tell a greater story. Each scene is like a tile in a mosaic, but I’ve always seen the mosaic and now I’m focusing in on the tiles and that gives me a very different perspective.
The hardest part for me is getting the story so it can stand alone, and can tell a whole tale without having to have the picture there. It is refreshing to step outside my comfort zone, but it’s scary too.
Last Friday’s Story had a man in a barrel, in the middle of a river… This is the story that came of that.
One Man’s Humor
Floating in a barrel just above the rapids, Mike wondered how he had let Peter talk him into this.
Thinking about it, he realized he should have known that when the director said ‘It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel’ that Peter was not being metaphorical. It just wasn’t in style. No, risking a friend’s life for a bad joke, that was totally his style.
“This is going to be epic,” Peter called from the shore. “And… rolling.”
Mike switched his oar for a rifle and smiled into the camera. “Now this is what I call shooting the rapids!”
“Cut and print… moving on.”
Today’s was “The Lady of Shallot” by John William Waterhouse.
(WARNING: this story is a lot darker than I usually write, and I blame it on a childhood of reading the works of Poe, watching Night Gallery on TV and the fact that I’m currently listening to “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde on my commute)
Margaret looked at her brother and then at the boat. Where she saw a dry rotted boat, and her mother’s favorite tapestry being ruined, Kevin saw only art.
“Why don’t we do this on dry land?” she asked, thinking about the risk.
“The lighting would be all wrong,” he assured her before gesturing for her to get in.
Once she complied, he pulled her away from the dock.
“I’m going to immortalize you on canvas,” he told her as the boat started to sink
As Maggie’s screams filled the night air he smiled. “But this only works if you’re dead…”