Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flash... and its all over

OK, dear readers, for those of you who thought I had forgotten the subject of my last post… I shall explicitly start with the question: “Does Flash Fiction work to your advantage as a novel writer?”

From my POV (Urrgghh, don’t you just hate acronyms?) the answer must be a most definite “yes” to FF (Urrggh, again!)

Flash Fiction is tool in our authorial tool box. Let me explain; though, if you will forgive me this week, my post is necessarily brief as I have some unexpected challenges to face. I will explain through a review of some earlier posts.

Those of you who recall my post from July last year, may well remember my thoughts on how useful Flash Fiction can be for the author. Of course, for those of you who don’t recall, may I guide you to the appropriate spot in our illustrious archive!


Oh, and before any of you say “Oi! Isn’t that CJ’s post?”, lest I be accused of plagiarism… Well, the vagaries of the systemic move of our blog from Wordpress to Blogspot – a feat undertaken by our hard-working friend – meant that most of the archived posts appear in her name…

Well, my Very Public Encounter made what I considered (to me at least) a novel (oops, Pun alert) use of my first ever piece of Flash Fiction:


When faced with a public audience: a book signing, a talk, a literary lunch, show casing a reading of a piece of Flash Fiction is a great ice breaker – as I did with Just a Thought… It also had the great advantage of of providing a reading that did not act as a spoiler.

And guess what? I have C.J. and all my friends here at WW to thank for that idea, for if it were not for WW and the blog topic of the week, I would never have written Just a Thought and I would never have ventured forth with its reading in public.

But, watch out for the unexpected…

My reading of Flash Fiction went so well at the literary lunch that I thought it would be great to do it on the radio. In September last year I got called in to do two Sunday Paper reviews within two weeks of each other, on two different morning shows. I did not want to be repetitive, so I suggested to one of the presenters that I read my piece “Just a Thought”. The presenter agreed – she thought it a good idea. I even e-mailed a copy of the text to her, so she could check through it.

The Sunday in question arrived. And I arrived at studios at the appointed thirty minutes beforehand, to collect a cup of BBC coffee and select half a dozen stories from the National papers before going on air…

There I sat, when, ten minutes before I went on air, the show’s producer came out to me and said:

‘David, we’ve run your story through the script reader and it’s too long…’

Not unsurprisingly, there was a pause…

‘…can you shorten it? By half?’ she said.

Bl**dy h*ll, I thought, ‘…of course,’ I said.

Ten minutes… TEN MINUTES! Just half a Thought?

Out came my printed copy and a pen, desperately looking to slash paragraphs. Try taking a 1000 word flash down to five hundred words in ten minutes. I was praying that, unlike a previous occasion when the producer thought one of my selected news stories was too political for the day, she would not also want me to find another story for the list I had given her.

Sigh of relief; the producer was happy with the list of stories I had chosen and I could concentrate the whole of the allotted time to my task of editing!

For me Flash Fiction is a challenge. A complete story in so many words. But it is also a great framework around which a blog post can be written. Writing Flash is good for practice. And I am with Greg here, Flash is around 500 to 1000 words. What is it with fifty words?

Give it a go!


And the radio show? Did I get the story short enough? Did I read it on air?
Yes! And there was me thinking this post was going to be brief… :)

Has anyone else used flash fiction in a public reading? Do drop me a note with me your story.


  1. That's why I love this group. Everyone's take is handled in such a different manner.

    Interesting story (BBC coffee could be a good little flash), David, and I think you underscored for me what I like about doing short pieces "Flashes" or scenes: they are kernels of inspiration. Some of them belong in longer pieces, some of them are written to just stand alone. But they are a writing exercise, and like you pointed out, so useful.

  2. Not just BBC coffee, BBC coffee in a plactic cup!

  3. Very cool, David! I didn't know about the radio pressure with last minute editing - that had to be especially hard! I do recall the original piece and I really liked it in it's entirety.

    Well done!

  4. Ah yes! Nothing beats the smell of styrofoam in the morning just before you're to go on the air.
    At least it wasn't used styrofoam, but then again, perhaps we'll never know.

    As CJ said, very cool piece.

  5. Sharon, I read a flash piece on the air during my Word by Word segment on KRCB. I read it and a small excerpt from my newly released book. How can anyone know how we really write by just reading a first chapter? It's a great way to show what kind of writing chops you have and excellent practice in editing and word economy. I highly recommend it. In fact, I will be recommending it again a week from Monday in Sebastopol on a library panel. I hope to someday have enough pieces to fill a collection of 365. A story per day. My latest can be found over at Flashquake (Fall 2010 - Troll Games). It's a sort of fractured fairy tale. Flash is an excellent medium to let my sense of humor have free reign. Then everyone will want to buy my tongue-in-cheek space operas, right?

  6. Anne's book is hilarious, about a species of tiny aliens with big desires to take over the world, which is hard to do when you're only 2" tall. I invited her to our post this week because of her work in our area with Flash Fiction. Thanks, Anne, for stopping by. You must come back and tell us how to order the book, please.

    And great points.

  7. Thanks for stopping by, Ann. I love the concept of 2 inch aliens with aspirations of world domination! I will look out for your work.

    If truth be known, CJ, I probably work better against an imoveable object! I can't set deadlines for myself, but if someone gives me one I see it as a great challenge! :)