Some writers insist that reading how-to books about writing only wastes time.
“Writers write!,” they say.
I am not one of those writers. Writers read, too. From time to time, I mull over books about writing, especially when I venture deeper into a new genre. Or when I feel I need a pep talk.
Kaye Linden’s 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story: A Manual for Writing Flash Fiction and Nonfiction offers such a boost. Based on actual courses that Ms. Linden teaches, 35 Tips condenses a lot of practical information into 94 pages, 35 chapters, and a lot of prompts.
The manual starts off with one of Ms. Linden’s flash stories: “Agoraclaustrophobia.” This is the “skeletal frame” Ms. Linden uses to flesh out the bones for writers keen to tackle the challenges of writing short pieces.
What is short?
The old saying, “I would have written more if I’d been able to,” applies to flash stories. They’re brief. Very.
1500 words max. Brevity’s editor, Dinty W. Moore, holds his flash writers to 750 words.
Like Goldilocks in the three bears’ cottage, I think 1000 words feels just about right.
Anyway, “Agoraclaustrophobia” concerns a daughter, a father, a situation (car stalling in the middle of the Australian Outback), and a resolution. Ms. Linden dissects the story piece by piece, revealing the skeletal frame lying beneath the flesh.
Emphasizing that flash requires a departure from the usual essay, or even short story, Ms. Linden starts off by discussing such essentials as compression, the need for a lapel-grabbing title (Hey, Mister, read this!), the hooking first lines, conflict, quest, point of view, structure, number of characters, setting, tense (past or present), tightening verbiage, dialogue, the annoyance of “to be” verbs, subtext and nuances of meaning in the story, and clichés. At the end, C.O.A.P. (Cut. Organize. Add. Polish.) – the four keys to revision – sum up things nicely.
Kaye Linden’s 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story: A Manual for Writing Flash Fiction and Nonfiction presents the basics of flash storytelling in an accessible and easy-going manner.
If you want more on the flash technique, see the following:
The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction (Dinty W. Moore, editor) takes writers into the subject in more depth. The same people published a book on flash fiction as well: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. There’s quite a number of books out there about flash fiction, not so many about flash nonfiction. As for flash memoir, Jane Hertenstein’s books, via prompts – Flash Memoir and Freeze Frame – encourage writers to mine their memories, not an easy task at all.