In 2015, I met Just B. Jordan at Realm Makers, and then in 2017, I fell in love with flash fiction (short stories 1000 words or less). And it turns out that Just B. Jordan is no stranger to brief fiction. In 2016, she published her first story with Splickety Publishing Group, and then in 2017, she sold three more stories to Splickety as well as shared a few flash fics on her blog.
SO. Just B. Jordan has graciously agreed to share some of her flash fiction wisdom with us today, and at the end of the post, be sure to enter the giveaway to win print copies of all four magazines that feature her stories.
Without further adieu, here are her thoughts.
When you speak to writers about flash fiction the most common response you hear is “I’d like to write a story in that form, but I can never make anything that short!”
I was an extremist in this group; I didn’t think I could write a story under 100,000 words. It was impossible until I changed the way I thought about short stories.
They aren’t exactly like novels, which are about the growth of a world and its characters. Flash fiction is about one thing, whether it’s a moment, a suggestion, a question, or a change. Something brief, but potent, that could be written in any number of ways. As a scene, an accumulation of different moments, a recollection—any structure that fits the tale you want to tell.
Learning the craft of flash means learning how to cut every word you possibly can. You have to be concise and advance the plot quickly. The story must be reduced to its essence, but remain vivid. For someone who tends to write long (yes, that’s me) it’s an invaluable lesson, and well worth the effort.
The restriction of words feels confining at first, but there’s a freedom to flash fiction. Embrace that it doesn’t have to be perfectly complete. It only has to be complete enough to resonate.
One way to resonate is to leave an imprint made by a question left unanswered, the reader feeling an emotion, or even something as simple as an image that’s strong enough to last in the mind’s eye.
Crafting a strong image is not only a good writing exercise, but it can be a powerful devise that makes your story memorable. Once a story’s written, find the moment that could become an “imprint” image. Shape this moment into one line, and work over the language of that line until the wording is unique, until it feels alive. Then you’ve created an image that will stay in your memory forever. (An image I will never forget is a line as short as “the howl of a songbird on a string”)
Every reader might find that a different line, image, or emotion remains with them from a story, and it could be one the writer didn’t purposefully craft. But that reflects the beauty of flash fiction; it has a form, but some stories are just abstract enough that it means something different to each reader.
Even so, coloring words and images shouldn’t cross the line into being too poetic. Flowered prose has its place, but a story still needs to advance. Description should be used as a gear, not the whole vehicle.
Everyone has their own writing style. And everyone has a different way of developing their story. I find it easiest to start with finding an idea I love. I let the story grow until I see the moment in time where the biggest change happens for the characters. That moment becomes the only scene I write. It begins just before, or just as, the “big change” occurs, and it ends when the characters are faced with accepting or fighting this change, or shortly after they’ve acted on it.
Write the big moment. Leave the reader with a unique image or a strong feeling. Cut everything that doesn’t advance the story or add emotion.
And when you’re ready to submit your story for publication, do a little research. It’s worth your time, I promise. Read stories published by magazines or ezines you want to submit to. If you find works that are similar to yours, you know that magazine will have a much higher chance of being interested in your work—submit to them!
Then keep writing those big moments. ;)
Just B. Jordan writes high fantasy and sci-fi. She received a contract for her first novel at the age of 18. Her published works include Never to Live and multiple short stories.
Be sure to enter to win the print copies of the four magazines that Just B. Jordan has been published in!
There are three different ways to enter, so be sure to get alllllllll the entries you can!
The giveaway ends on 1.20.18, and the winner will be announced in the post script of the January 22, 2018 post from Penprints. :)
SO. What do you think about flash fiction? Have you tried to write it? Have you read it?