It’s not at all a new concept but it was a new idea to me a few months ago when a my friend posed this writing challenge.
For someone whose writing challenges typically include writing an enormous amount of words in a ridiculously short amount of time, I found that this challenge resulted in an inverse effect; the less words required, the more time required per word. (I feel like I should provide some mathematical equation. I’m bound to get the old white board out and start solving for X any moment now.)
You see, I’ve found that when you tell people that you are writing a novel, they always ask the same question: “What is it about?” It should, theoretically, be an easy question to answer for the person that’s been obsessing over the details of a fictional plot for an embarrassing long time. Yeah… not so much. I usually say something completely unhelpful like, “It’s complicated” or I just sort of ramble out a synopsis as I watch the interest drain from the listeners eyeballs making me wish I’d just said, “It’s complicated” in the first place.
So what does that have to do with flash fiction? Nothing, really, except that I took up the challenge as a lesson in brevity. My goal was less “write a whole story in 55 words” than it was “express a concept in a few sentences.” I needed to find the happy medium between the two-word response, “It’s complicated” (well, three words depending on your word count policy regarding contractions and hyphenations), and the ten-page dissertation without organization, direction or a proper thesis statement.
Was I successful? Eh, well, I got the word count undercontrol…
She could feel the warmth of the unending sun leaching from the grass up into the backs of her legs as she lounged comfortably at the base of the oak tree, groping skyward. Bewildered people rambled about as she looked on. She smiled. A lifelong question was answered; you can still feel after you die.
Have you ever tried flash fiction? Do you have any extreme exercise you’ve practiced to hone your craft?