I have a new story up on Daily Science Fiction.
Last summer I attended the Cascade Writers Workshop, and they had a special track for flash fiction. I’d written a few of flash pieces, but when they worked I had no idea why. And when they didn’t…well, operator error, obviously.
K.C. Ball to the rescue. We spent the first part of the workshop examining flash pieces from a number of different authors. Then we chose a one word prompt for ourselves. Maybe it had to be a noun, I don’t remember. Anyway, picking “a house” was random. You know that terror looking into the blankness and not knowing if anything is there? Yeah.
The key part of the workshop happened after the first period of writing time. K.C. met with each of us individually and read what we had. Then she asked just a couple of questions. For me this was at the point where I realized somebody was going to show up on the beach; K.C. confirmed that was probably a good idea. It’s probably the point at which I have sometimes given up on a flash piece. I don’t know what’s next so I think there’s nothing there. In a longer work, you can splash along until you find a deeper current. In a flash story, you have to get there fast. And frankly, that’s scary.
It’s scary like pull-the-bandage-off-quick sort of scary; pull it off before you’ve stopped bleeding. You don’t have time to woo the reader; you have to cut into the heart before the reader knows you’re in the room. Major surgery, no anesthetic. It’s that kind of scary. Pick one emotion, dive bomb it. You’re diving from the high board into a teacup. That’s the kind of scary I mean. I’m repeating myself because: scary.
If you ever have a chance to take a flash workshop from K.C. Ball, do it.