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Writing not only encourages reading, it develops story analysis skills. By working out why a story grabs you (or not!), you can apply good points to your own work and avoid those things which made you feel a tale had failed.
Also be prepared to confront your own prejudices when assessing what makes a story work or not. If you’re not keen on dialogue, a story which has a lot of this may not grab you but that in itself does not mean the story hasn’t worked. You need to look at why the writer has written the story the way they have. Have they achieved what they thought their story would?
Think about how you approach your own story writing. Do you need to mix up your approaches? Do certain phrases crop up time and again?
Read your work against a story you love and work out what elements they have in common. Hopefully this will cheer you!
Am writing this looking out over a lovely loch and enjoying some warm May sunshine (yes, really). But if I look in the opposite direction I can see mountains which still have a decent covering of snow (yes, really!). A beautiful contrast.
Contrasts are great in writing too. There’s the obvious one between good and evil and so many wonderful stories have come from that (The Lord of the Rings is the obvious example here).
But contrasts can be more subtle. There can be the contrasts in attitude between characters. One never lies. One only does if it spares others unnecessary grief. What would those characters do in extremis? How would they get on with each other? What are the consequences of their attitudes?
There should be good story ideas just out of that one contrast.
Drafted a flash fiction story on a fantastic train journey from Wick, the most northerly town on mainland UK.
You get to see the whole of Scotland’s fantastic scenery in one trip – farmland, moors, lochs, mountains and back again. Got to see loads of red deer, cormorants, and there were a couple of seals on the Brora/Golspie coastline. And I wrote a story too!
Pleased with story but wanted to get it to a 100 worder. As ever, getting it to the right length without losing meaning took more time than the initial draft, but that is the way of it!
Sometimes you come across a story that could’ve been written just for you. I came across a flash fiction piece that did this for me today. It was by Anita Hunt and called A Wish For Dad.
It is a special moment as a reader to come across a story like that. It is even more special for the writer to know you’ve connected with a reader like that. Of course most of the time most writers will never know but if you get the chance to tell the author so, please do.
It really does mean the world.
From Light to Dark and Back Again
I love to portray my flash fiction characters via their thoughts. It gives me a direct way into their personalities and from there I can work out what makes them tick. I can also work out their fears and loathings. That can be fun! I can use those to drop my characters right in it and I do!
I’m getting to see a reasonable amount of wildlife at the moment. I’ve seen red admiral and orange tip butterflies and, at the other end of the scale, red deer hinds, including a youngster.
Naturally I see these lovely creatures in passing but they still make an impact on me and, I think, enrichen my life a little.
A good flash fiction story should be like that. Brief doesn’t mean lesser in some way. It should mean, for flash fiction purposes, intense impact hitting the reader quickly.
Therein lies the challenge of writing it too!
Sometimes a flash piece works better at a specific length, say 250 words rather than the 100 words you’d set your heart on for a competition or market.
The good news is that there is a range of competitions and markets so if one doesn’t suit, try another. Check out terms and conditions carefully. If in doubt about anything, ask, but don’t compromise the story. It never pays!
What can make a flash fiction piece work so well is when a phrase sums up a character so well, a reader can visualise them by that alone.
Mary looked as warm as granite.
Bob thought the pound shop expensive.
Tells you all you need to know about those two!
Exaggeration and metaphor can work really well here but I treat these as I do chilli powder and use sparingly!