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“Time in Flash Fiction” by Sophie van Llewyn on TSS Publishing

A great craft article on using time in flash fiction with examples by Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, AE Weisgerber, and many others–check it out!

 

Sophie-van-Llewyn-Resident-Flash-Fiction-Writer-with-TSS-Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania. She now lives in Germany. Her prose has been published by Ambit, the 2017 & 2018 NFFD Anthologies, New Delta Review, Banshee, New South Journal etc. and has been placed in various competitions – including TSS (you can read her Flash Fiction ‘The Cesarean’ here). Her novella-in-flash, ‘Bottled Goods,’ set against the backdrop of communist Romania was published by Fairlight Books.

 

Time in Flash Fiction

by Sophie van Llewyn

Flash fiction is an exercise in brevity: this is nothing new. But this doesn’t mean that flash fiction has to limit its temporal reach to a short span of time. Flash fiction can stretch far beyond the few pages (or the fraction of a page) it occupies. It can encompass hours, days, months, a lifetime or even more, as we’ll see in the examples listed below. They illustrate the various techniques that can be employed to make time dilate in flash fiction — or rather contract to a few dozens or hundred words. It is no small feat, and the result of this kind of compression can have a staggering effect on the reader.

There’s also another aspect of time in flash fiction to consider: because of the low word count, there are only so many words than can be used in order to establish a timeline. It’s an art in itself choosing those very words that tell us more about the character’s situation, about his or her personality, while giving us a feel of the atmosphere of the era (this is especially important in the case of historical fiction), or just placing us in time. It’s the ability to choose from all the spectrum of the character’s activities and surroundings: the ones that tell us most about the character’s set of circumstances. Stripping an entire lifetime down to a few details — this is a skill which entire books could be written about.

In this essay, I only aim to showcase some of the ways time can be used in flash fiction, using the accustomed examples that are free to read on the Internet. Think of this like a door, setting your imagination free, allowing you to be creative with the use of time in your own work.

Continue reading:

Interviews

Writing Wild in Costa Rica: An Interview with Participant Corey Miller

Writer and brewer Corey Miller is joining us for Write Wild in Costa Rica in a few short weeks! Here, Corey shares a little bit about himself and what he’s looking forward to on our retreat.
KF: Hi Corey! Can you share with us a little bit about your writing life?

CM: I began writing during college in my free time. I enjoy writing short stories that can quickly envelope the reader but still leave much to the imagination.

KF: What are you most looking forward to in Costa Rica?

CM: I can’t wait to explore the area and get out of my comfort zone. I think a change of pace will spark some new creativeness.
KF: Sparking creativity is certainly one of our goals for this retreat! Now: One book, one meal, one song…go! 
 

CM: The Giver by Lois Lowry, grilled cheese and tomato soup, PYT by Michael Jackson

KF: Ah, great answers. Would you like to share with us something unusual or interesting or weird or wonderful about yourself?
CM: I went to college for music but brew beer as a job. Oh, and I live in a tiny house I built.
KF: Oh that’s so cool! I love the “jungle cabinas” at our venue in Peace Retreat. Like tiny houses! Thanks so much, Corey. Really looking forward to meeting you and working (and retreating) with you in Costa Rica next month! 
Note: Our Costa Rica Retreat is filled, but openings remain for our upcoming retreats in Italy and Grand Lake. Check them out!

Bio: Corey Miller works and writes in Cleveland, OH. When not writing, Corey takes the dogs for a hike and enjoys cooking for the family. 

 

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

A Remedy for When You’re Stuck: Inserting the Unexpected Detail

unexpectedOne of the many reasons we find ourselves getting “stuck” when drafting a new story is that we have unwittingly written ourselves into a very boring place. How did this happen? We had such a great idea!

The answer likely resides in your descriptions. 

Consider your “go-to” descriptions of settings and characters. What do you think of when you see the words “hospital room” for example?

“antiseptic” smells

the beeping monitors

a nurse in a “starched white uniform” (not sure they even wear those anymore!)

How about a waitress in a diner?

She’s wearing a name tag, of course. Maybe her name is Candy. She has a pencil behind her ear and she is chewing, no “smacking” a piece of gum. 

Do you see where I’m going with this? These descriptions write themselves. In the process of drafting, if you find yourself falling into these clichés, the rest of the writing will likely follow suit. You begin to bore yourself.

I urge you to make every single part of your flash fiction so fresh and new and interesting that your reader (or slush pile reader) sits up and takes notice from beginning to end. With fewer words at your disposal, the description you do include needs to be strong, palpable, and carry a lot of emotional or narrative weight.

With this in mind, you should also consider how you describe ordinary things. Can you look at those things with fresh eyes? In Susan Minot’s connected collection of stories, “Monkeys,” she shows a character plunking down a crumpled up napkin and saying that it “bloomed” on the table. Can you see that? I can and it’s perfect. What a thrilling, fresh description!

The following is an exercise I use in my online workshop, Fast Flash, and it always results in strong, fresh, original pieces of writing that surprise even the writers themselves. We writers need ways to overcome our natural tendency to write scenes in the way they have always been written. This exercise is designed to give you a new way in to your material.

I want you to imagine a scene in a commonplace setting. One you’ve seen in fiction many times. A hospital room, a bar, a dining room, a park, a school yard, whatever. No doubt your brain already conjures up certain images and descriptions just by reading those words.

Now, I want you to insert some unexpected detail. Don’t give this too much thought and don’t worry about making sense, just insert the strange detail.

Examples: a clown at the train station, a daisy growing out of the sidewalk, an old man walking backwards, an animal in a hospital room, etc. 

Perhaps the odd detail will drive the scene forward or perhaps it will remain in the background, but what this exercise does is trick your brain into writing a scene in that setting that has, I promise you, never been written before. You have given yourself permission to write outside the box. You have “primed the pump” of your subconscious and now all bets are off.

***Consider also describing something ordinary within your setting in an extraordinary way (like the napkin that “bloomed” in the Susan Minot story).

You might also try this on a story you’ve been stuck on! Have fun!

~Kathy

 

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Grand Lake Retreat Announced: Flash Fiction Summer Camp!

 

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How does communing with your fellow writers in a rustic setting in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains sound? How about a chance to clear your mind at high altitude, open your mind to creativity and expansion and take in the “grand” view?

This year Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish have chosen beautiful Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge in Grand Lake, Colorado for their summer retreat! Grand Lake is just 1.5 hours north of Denver and is in one of the prettiest areas of Colorado, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We’ll spend four days and nights with mountain air, lakeside views, skies full of stars and lots of flash fiction. We’ll generate stories, we’ll sculpt stories, we’ll rest, we’ll share, we’ll conference and we will be inspired together in the beauty of late summer in Colorado, under the August meteor showers. We may even spot some wildlife!

gL

Join us! Find out more!

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Total Lunar Eclipse in Costa Rica During “Writing Wild” Retreat Jan 20, 2019

How cool is that??

During our Breckenridge retreat we were visited by the Elusive Red Fox Totem Writing Spirit–right up to our front door!

Looks like we will be having a lunar visitor during our Costa Rica retreat this time:

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Read more about the January 20, 2019 eclipse here.

moon

Timetables for Costa Rica according to here:

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Bring your binoculars!

Love, Nancy and Kathy