Hope everyone had a good time writting their stuff. I came back to the site after remembering i had an unfinished story here and decided to enter. Also i am guessing this wasn't really about the actual flash.
Can you share some guidelines on the format? I've never written of (or frankly till now heard of) flash fiction
Flash fiction is just any form of fiction that is extremely short and can be read in a "flash". There is no set guideline other than the word limit is very low. In this case, 200 to 300 words is the limit and range of the flash fiction. You can write about anything so set your creativity free. Basically it's a short story to put in lamest terms.
200 to 300 words, eh? Sounds interesting.
Yeah, it can be a lot of fun to do. The challenge is making the story feel complete in those 200-300 words. Every word really counts and there's no room for extra fluff, making it a really dense experience.
Too much nonstop density isn't always a good thing in long stories, since you need to let the reader have time to mentally take in what's going on as they continue reading, which is a part of pacing in general. The same can be said of movies. But at 300 words, the reader simply reflects on it afterwards, so with flash fiction you can go all-in and really push the boundaries of what you can write in as few words as possible. It's almost comparable to poetry, but in traditional story form.
I'm hoping a lot of people submit something for this, because I enjoy reading them.
enjoying the stories. keep it up guys!
All right, I have a clear picture now. But now I'm curious - how do you evaluate / rank Flash Fiction? While it's easy to identify a badly written work, great ones will be great based on how they trigger thoughts in the readers mind. The problem here is the same with horror, each reader has a different view of what the outcomes could be. In long form, its easier to make a fair assessment of quality over time, but in this format I'm puzzled at what a unanimously agreed to be good writeup would look like.
This is a tougher one to answer and you might get some different perspectives from other people. There's definitely some subjectivity to it. Personally speaking, I put a lot of weight into "completeness" of the story. The more that it tells and the better image it puts in the reader's head, the better. But it can't feel unfinished or rushed either, so it all has to fit together really well. It also can't feel unsatisfying.
I believe it's fine to have some elements that are open to interpretation. Sort of like a painting. People can have opposing views on what a painting means, while also liking it just as much as the other person they're in disagreement with. The important thing is: that no matter what meaning the reader gets out of your story, that it's an interesting and satisfying one. Since it's writing though, you still want some cohesion that makes the story. You're just leaving more things up to the reader's imagination.
Due to the format, the imagery can't always come from longer and detailed descriptions, but instead more from subtle additions. If you can write a sentence that accomplishes an action, develops the character or situation, and gives insight into the surrounding world all at the same time, then that'll add a lot of value to the story. That doesn't mean you can't devote sentences to individual tasks, but you'll want to try layering plenty of content together. Every sentence needs to have some kind of significance.
The shabby Balinese cat meowed dejectedly, as Matt came limping home late again covered in silt and blood
That's 18 words and accomplishes a number of things:
-Shows that Matt has a cat.
-Matt also has a "home" somewhere.
-Matt was doing something all day.
-Late can have two meanings here: it either means later than usual, implying in the past he arrived earlier in the day. Or it can simply mean it's nighttime and maybe he always arrives at night. This can be left to reader interpretation or clarified elsewhere in the story.
-This is not the first time Matt has returned late recently, whichever of the above meanings it is.
-The cat is a long-hair breed (Balinese), which requires a lot of extra care compared to most short-hair breeds. Since it's described as shabby, Matt hasn't been taking very good care of it recently.
-This is further emphasized by the cat's dejected meow, showing it may be unhappy and/or depressed.
-The cat's not dead and hasn't run away, so clearly he's feeding it still.
-To feed the cat means he has to get cat food from somewhere, whether it's a job or stealing it.
-The cat meowing can also imply that he's had the cat for a while and it appreciates him to some degree, enough so that it still goes out of its way to meow instead of acting indifferent upon another late return. If it didn't like him at all, it wouldn't still be living in his home.
-Matt limping and having blood on him shows he's been injured in some way. Or he could have had the limp already and the blood is from something else.
-Matt having silt on him can imply a number of things. Maybe Matt is a chimney sweep. Or maybe he doesn't have a job at all and simply can't afford to clean his clothes.
That sentence can also create some questions for the reader, to (hopefully) help hook in their interest: Why is he covered in both silt and blood? Is he hurting people? Are people hurting him? Is this in connection with a job or is it happening elsewhere? Is he not injured enough to need to see a doctor? Or maybe he can't afford a doctor even if he needs one, considering he's limping and already having trouble simply taking care of his cat? Or maybe he's had a limp all of his life?
While there's some open-endedness, there's also some fairly concrete details that all readers will get regardless of how they view the sentence. You use those clearer aspects to help bind together the important elements and to tell the story, while leaving the less clear things to their imagination to further build upon what's there.
With that example sentence, you could even add an extra sense like sound or smell, to add some description of his home. Or that could be hinted at elsewhere in some other way, or skipped altogether if it's not important to the overall direction of the story. While in a full story you can expand on a lot of the little details, part of flash fiction is leaving some of it up to the reader's imagination. Or even better, being able to heavily imply things without directly needing to say or explain them. Again, it's about trying to accomplish more with as few words as possible.
Some other factors being writing style and variability of descriptive of words. Since you're working with very few words, if you lean too much on certain ones or even repeat yourself, it starts to stick out and can take away from the flow of the story. A creative descriptive word can also really change or enhance the meaning of a single line.
For writing style, we all have our own ways of approaching our storytelling and some of that is personal preference. Other times, people (like myself) are sometimes challenged with bringing life to their words. You can know the story you want to tell and it could be really interesting, but if the words feel empty and not vivid enough, then the reader won't connect with it. Good flow is especially important for flash fiction, since you don't want the reader to trip over poor wording or become disinterested. This loops back to density being a factor. Everything good or bad about a story is multiplied when writing something this short.
Even though I say the story should be "complete", that doesn't mean it actually has to tell the entire story that's happened. It just needs to feel like a complete and concise experience that's enjoyable front-to-back, which can also hint at a larger story without actually telling it directly. In fact, good flash fiction can leave a great untold story to the imagination of the reader. Some people even outline a full story and simply write a scene from the middle of it. Also, your first sentence and last sentence are really important. The first to hook in the reader. The last to tie everything together, create some closure, and hopefully make the whole thing memorable as they reflect on it.
That covers quite a few different things, but hopefully that answers some of your question. It's not a singular thing that makes a piece good or not. It's a number of different aspects and how well the writer takes advantage of the medium. It's a very different type of story telling and arguably harder to pull off than traditional short stories because of the stricter word count limitation.
All right, that was a beautiful writeup, and it addressed most of my queries. Will have to iterate a lot on every word choice, balancing readability with detail. The additional impact of the first and last lines is also a good insight. Looks like I'll be entering this one after all :)
@firegrill That was pleasant and I see what you were going for. I think the last paragraph could have used some serious work, and some of the wording was a little awkward, but it was a really enjoyable read.
@malkalack What does Sir Abraham get out of fighting in the arena?
The local nobility pays him handsomely, and people are more prone to leave him to his own devices.
Makes some sense.
@JJJ-thebanisher Thanks! I wrote it late last night. My last thought before posting it was, "I really should wait until the morning and spruce it up." I had trouble with the last paragraph; specifically, how much to include and what to exclude and let the reader glean for him- or her-self. What wording did you find awkward?
I read through @BenCrucifix and I love the tone shift, very nicely done and seemingly perfect in a short story format. The sense of dread at the beginning really made me smile when it is revealed how jovial the actual situation was. Nice job Ben.
I've submitted mine, good luck to everyone
Man, I got a solid spook out of that one.
All finished! So much great work so far - can't wait to see what other amazing writing comes out of this!
I love your first entry so much, stories focusing on survivor's guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of my favorite; they just drip with power when done properly.
My own personal thoughts on the ones that I didn't commend:
@Theotian -- The dialogue felt unnatural in this story, and I noticed many grammatical and phrasing issues.
@Orange -- This was a pretty good attempt but I didn't feel like the protagonist was well characterized. She had the markings of a wealthy, popular and outgoing socialite (able to host a sweet 16 at an art gallery, and people actually showed up!) but then we're told that only one person in the whole school is nice to her?
@ericyopy -- The writing could use a revision or three to make the sentences flow better. There were also a number of grammatical issues. I also don't think that we were given enough information to care about the man or his cause.
@MrMustacho -- This was a decent attempt but I think it would work better if it was made clear who the narrator is talking to, and why.
@firegrill -- As mentioned previously, I think the grandmother's internal monologue sounded really awkward, and I thought that the story itself felt a little bit like a trope about every new generation.
@Malkalack -- This was a good attempt and close to commendable. I felt like a number of sentences ended sort of awkwardly "started at it" and in one of the paragraphs, the usage of 'however' was too frequent. I'm not sure if I'd commit to this criticism but I felt like the transition from description to action was a bit jarring.
@BenCrucifix -- This was a cool twist, and while I knew that it wasn't going to be a prison, I didn't realize that it was going to be a school. Unfortunately, this style of deliberate deception only works if the reader doesn't see a twist coming at all.
@Agstand -- Picturing this was hilarious but I think the teacher's response was half-baked, and Ralph's internal thought process could be improved. I think I'd like to see you commit to the absurdity a little more too.
@StillWatersRunDeep -- This was insanely close to commendable. I think the death and transition to the afterlife needed a bit more fleshing out and it would have been fine to cut out some of the earlier parts of the piece. I'd suggest killing a bit of the Mary Scott part, since she's really not that interesting compared to the ending.
@TheNewIAP -- This was also extremely close to commendable but I really didn't like the last sentence. It was jarring to place me into the story because until that point, you had the reader trying to decide which character to side with. Once you've inserted us into the prose personally, I feel like the interesting thought experiment becomes more hollow. I also felt like the sentence itself wasn't particularly great and I wouldn't mind a finishing sentence more in line with an ambiguous finish so we don't know what the outcome will be for the kid.
@Will11 -- This was a good story and close to commendable. I was a bit confused about the protagonist. Through the first two paragraphs I got the feeling that this was a person who was really in touch with the world and with nature's processes but then I find out that she's killing herself over a rejection, and it felt contradictory. I think it would be better to omit her reasoning altogether, personally.
@Kwism1127 -- This was pretty good, but I think the writing could be improved in terms of clarity. It's a little hard to follow the plot and there were a couple repeated words/phrases that detracted from the writing.
@Naomi14 -- I thought that this was surprisingly good. I liked that you wrote a legitimate story that was paced well. I felt like there was some convenience-writing though, it seems weird that the protagonist was able to watch them walk all the way to the ferris wheel, presumably wait in line, end up in a specific carriage, and then eventually kiss, all the while doing absolutely nothing. I might also remove the carnie altogether and replace his part with more about the protagonist.
If any of the above want to post improved versions as replies to this post, I'll consider commending them if there have been significant improvements.
I've increased the absurdity and improved the teacher's response
Ralph felt his heat race as the laughter from the other members of the culinary class continued. While it was an open secret that he was an outcast, Ralph had tried to convince himself that this time things were different, but now it was impossible for him to deny that he wasn’t welcome. Who would have thought the decision to add eggs would be the event that would bring the truth out into the light?
“If stage four cancer was food it would be this dish, why the hell did you put eggs in it?” Head Chef Carl demand to know.
“Some people would like it,” Ralph pathetically tried to defend himself.
“Your mom would prefer the taste of my cock in her mouth over this shit.”
The laughter began again, this time even louder. Sweat dripped down Ralph’s face as it turned bright red. At this point in his life you would think Ralph would be used to being treated like this, but he would never accept being an object of rejection and scorn. Ralph picked up the electric egg beater he had used earlier and turned it on.
He approached Carl, who was too busy laughing to notice him. Using all of his strength Ralph rammed the egg beater into Carl’s abdomen and within seconds Carl fell to the floor dead, as a mixture of blood and egg batter began to ooze out of the wound. The other members of the class ran out of the room screaming. Ralph knew he should leave soon, but before he did he was tempted to try the dish that caused this series of events. After taking a bite, he chewed it a bit and a nauseating taste entered his mouth.
“Oh my god, this really does taste terrible,” Ralph conceded.
Word Count: 299
Hmm, the internal monologue was essentially the story. Unfortunate you saw it that way thanks for the read.
E: Whoops, read that wrong. Uhm, I guess it's a sci-fi over-the-top final death battle thingy?
Well, I didn't think it be that confusing, alright.
If you need some facts, this is taking place before a super nova occurs and it's some sci-fi rebellion plot.
I loved reading these entries! They are all good, so I imagine Bucky will have a hard time choosing a winner. Good luck everyone!