No, not the DC comics character. And NO, I’m not flashing anyone. Ever. Mostly, anyway.
Flash Fiction. Not just really short fiction either. Flash fiction IS its own genre.
I thought of the regular cliches when writing this: tell, don’t show; don’t get wordy; don’t get too descriptive; and, choose an effective title. And then…
Well hell, if you don’t understand those already from writing in general, then you’ll find no help here. Sorry, but not really. Actually, not even a little bit.
There’s a lot of useless information on the Internet. No-yeah, I know. It’s true. Write flash fiction in just 25 steps. Read now: 13 steps to writing flash fiction. How to write flash fiction in ALL the steps.
Damn, I’ll just assume that each and every one of those regurgitated the points almost verbatim. And, you should assume it too. While it’s true, not much is original anymore (geez, thanks Internet), that doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful. And it doesn’t have to be outrageously long to be good advice.
So, Inkateers, here’s my flash blog on flash fiction.
Make The Title Earn Its Money: Don’t be afraid the create a title that tells more than, well, the title.
Start Sooner Than The Beginning: Huh? you ask. You read that right. You need to jump in. There’s no building a dramatic story. In fact, consider starting smack in the middle where there’s immediate conflict or action. No backstory, flash forwards, or prologue either.
Be Precise: To the point. Don’t get moored in a quagmire of details. Know when to end it. And, keep it short. Under 500 is a good rule of mind, although I’ve seen some under 1,000. I like under 500 because it challenges me as a writer. Makes me cut out any unnecessary bullshit.
Cut The Bullshit: Don’t allow morass to bring you down and ramble on. It’s flash fiction, not a novel.
Don’t Be Afraid To Have An Ambiguous Ending: Allow the reader to imagine more; paint a picture of the mind; or ask, what the fuck just happened. Also, see my last post on ambiguity in writing.
Last Sentence Holds The Meat: Make that motherfucker count. It needs to hold up its end of the story. Seriously. Needs to tie a lot together in just those few words. If you end it with, The End, you will be hunted and hurt.
Which way does your writing go?
I’ve said it before, Don’t be afraid to have an ambiguous ending. Allow the reader to imagine more; get all up in their kitchen and paint a picture in their headspace – and then own it (their head, that is); and, allow the reader to ask, what the fuck just happened.
I know what you’re thinking, “Shit, Chris, I’d prefer to understand just what the hell’s happening when I get to the ending of a story. Tidy that shit up nicely so I can just kick back knowing fully what took place. I don’t want to think. Thinking, well, it sucks.”
I get it, few things are more interesting to people than not fully understanding something. It’s like goddamn algebra. It’s like they’ve been cheated out of all that precious invested time in understanding characters, the plot, a few twists, and then the ambiguous whammy kinda feels like a sledge hammer upside the skullbox. No one likes a sledge upside the head. Probably not, anyway.
But, an ambiguous ending or character can lead to other things. It offers the reader a chance to wonder. To ponder the intrigue. To suggest to themselves a different scenario of final events. Or, to elevate their senses on the finality of said events. Is it really over? Could it have ended that way? Did she really die? Can’t be. Say it ain’t so. Emotion overload. It also gives the writer an out. Do we write another story or book as a follow up?
The ambiguous ending should leave the reader wanting more, not cheated. It should spark their curiosity for more. That’s the entire idea. As the writer, it’s imperative we don’t give definite answers in an ambiguous ending. Seems a little obvious, but as people, we too like things wrapped in a cute little bow. This bow must go fuck itself. The bow must die. The bow is not complex, ambiguity is complex. Bye-bye bow.
A way to work on ambiguity in your writing is to practice flash fiction. Super duper segue here: come back for my next blog post at this spot for flash fiction must haves. In other words, the do me’s and don’ts of flashing.
I could just leave it at that. One singular sentence to sum up writing. Fits perfectly. Very apropos. But, no. There’s more. Lots more. It’s hard like getting out of bondage. Or a straight jacket. Or an insane asylum.
For simplicity, I’ll give you five reasons as a teaser.
Writers are artists. The canvas is blank until we cover paper with words. Magical, fantastic words that the reader uses to create a vivid picture in their mind. The creative effort is long. To say it’s painstaking doesn’t describe accurately the work involved. And, art takes time.
We punish ourselves. There’s stress. There’s sleeplessness because when we wake, we think of the goddamn story and tweak it at two in the morning. Or we create a character and develop her at three in the morning. Or we sit in a movie theatre and excuse ourselves to the restroom because we just got a great idea and need to peck it into our phone’s notes.
Because the story imprints our brain. It sticks with us long after the final words get written. Even after it’s edited and published, we wonder if it could have been better. What we coulda changed. We do this to ourselves because in some sadistic we, it’s how we thrive. And keep going to write again. Or…
We stress about writing. Or, we don’t write when we like and stress about not writing. And then we stress about the writing we’re actually doing. And when we write and jump to another work or social media, we stress about that because, well, WE’RE NOT FUCKING WRITING. But when we do write, you’d think the stress would go away, but then we stress about the actual goddamn writing and if it’s even any good. Then people ask us if we’re writing, and we answer yes, but think Mother of Christ, am I writing enough? And when people ask us for sample of our writing and we don’t have enough to give, STRESS. And we even stress about if we’re blogging enough. So, holy shit. *rips out a gob of hair*
Writing requires focus. I’ll be honest here, I’ve yet to meet an artist who has laser focus all the time.
We I tend to jump back and forth in writing projects so yeah, there’s a few WIPs hidden on my Mac. Also, see the above paragraph. Now, where was… Oh yeah, focus.
Writing requires diligence. This is not to say that writers aren’t a diligent sort, but making the full commitment is well, a huge commitment. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes dedication. So yeah, the diligence thing is hard. And damnit, diligence takes persistence.
In summary, WRITING IS HARD. Very. Fucking. Hard.
I wanted to blog, then I didn’t. And this went round and round until, yeah, blog. I have reasons. Some real, others well…
Why the long road to blog? Because blogging takes work. It steals from other work. Writing work. That’s not to say that I’ve been writing like a motherfucker. In fact, just the opposite: Not much.
But hey, I still write every day. My writing notes explode with ideas and sometimes those ideas gain growth, expand, and evolve into stories. Short stories, to be exact. Problem is, my current WIP list is too long. Way. Too. Fucking. Long.
I need to finish some shit. A lot of shit. I get it.
First thing’s first: I shall finish a piece that’s long taunted me. It laughs at me while asleep in its tech file embedded deep within my Mac. It shuns my very existence. It smiles when it sees me hammer at keys for other WIP. It looks upon me with wide eyes and whispers, “Fuck you.” Then it smiles knowing full well that I’ll never attack it. But, no more. Consider full-on attack mode. I will Hulk the living shit out of it.
IT is a post-apocalyptic story I wrote way back in 2015. “Finished” it almost four years ago to this day. And it sucked. A huge goddamn bag of suck. Sucked so bad, I coulda called it Hoover. Or *Blow Job Betty. Use whichever you want. Don’t care. All I care about now is this one story.
I will gently place your audacity aside in asking why.
Because that one story has haunted me. I think about it regularly. I see it in my dreams. All dreams. I see it when I’m awake. It taps at my shoulder. I create notes about it. And more notes. And then some more. I’m continually adding or revising it. All in my head. And some notes. You see, this one bullshit story has detracted me. It’s derailed my writing. Completely took me out of the writing world and put me smack in the WRITING FUNK. It’s removed me from other works. It’s placed my mind in disarray for writing.
This is not an excuse, it’s a stark reality.
Therefore, Post-Apocalyptic story, I shall finish you and you shall complete me. I will make you better. I shall, with your rolled up papers in hand, shout from my mountaintop. Sure, no one will be around to hear that scream, but doesn’t matter. I will finish the story in a way that feels complete. And thorough. And works. Until then, blogs at this spot will be more regular as I update my progress.
* Name is purely coincidental. If your name is indeed Blow Job Betty well, your parents really fucked up. If your name is just Betty and you’ve given blow jobs, that’s okay. Probably a good thing, in fact. Keep at it, Betty.
I was recently told to go write. This is only weird because the words came from a friend. It’s not like I tell people what to do. Well, *laughs* I do if ‘go fuck off’ or ‘go fuck yourself’ counts, then yeah, I guess so. Actually I’d never say “go fuck off.” I believe less is more so “fuck off” would suffice.
They say if you write, you gotta do it. They do say it. I’ve heard it. Read it, too. The it is writing. Every day. WRITE.
Do the dance. Peck at the keyboard. Make words from letters and then get sentences and all that stuff to appear on the great expansive paper dance floor. WRITE.
So this friend – back off. HE’S REAL. – says to go write.
People that know me tend to think my writing stops because they see no production. I’m like motherfuckers, if a tree falls in the woods does it not make noise? Actually this makes no sense whatsoever in the current context, but it shall remain because WRITING.
Production. Yes. There’s always writing produced. My story notes are writing. My ‘notes’ notes are writing. My short stories are writing. Any yes, my writing is writing. I write every day.
Haha. Me too.
Here’s the breakdown: I’m constantly writing. Ideas – I gather them all from the fertile garden of my brain where word-seeds grow into beautiful sentences and then bloom into flowery paragraphs. YES, IT’S REALLY THAT EASY.
No. No it’s not. That was a complete lie.
And more ideas.
Mixed with more ideas because IDEAS.
And wait, yet more goddamn ideas making new ideas. It’s a baby room of crying ideas all looking at me wanting more ideas to happen.
Soon the ideas create ideas which roll into a snowball of ideas. They tumble down the idea mountain picking up idea momentum and idea speed. And like an idea avalanche, they roll on top of idea after idea after idea, gathering a steam of ideas until WHAM. CRASH. BAM. A thunderous crunch of ideas in the brain. IDEAS.
So my friend, way back there in the beginning, said to go write when he really should have said, FINISH YOUR SHIT.
But hey, that’s another post entirely.
See you then.
I told myself I’d stop doing it. Just quit. No more. No mas. Zip. Zilch. Not even one.
There I was, doing it again. Sure, I was up early. Had all good intentions. Then…
Shit. Just. Happens.
I emailed myself.
Another goddamn email I won’t read. Another email I don’t have time to read. Another email I will move to that folder. Another. Another. Another.
Why’d I do it?
I blamed it on lack of sleep. I said it’d be only one more. I told me it couldn’t hurt.
Then whammity fuckin’ wham. I brazenly informed me that, “Hey fuckwit, you created an email folder that is titled ‘ME’ not because you’re a narcissist, but you’ve sent to many emails to yourself and you can’t keep up.”
That’s a lot to say from me to me. But I was right. I have sent one two hundred many emails to me. I should delete some. Or I should just block me from emailing me. Or I should just read the goddamn article and not even send it. Unless it’s a really good one. Like the ones I’ve sent. They were all really good.
Damn, I should go and read those.
Let’s just say that’s it’s been a desolate road.
There are hairpin turns that’ll rip you apart from the g-forces, shredding flesh from bone. Your hope – to come out unscathed. A miraculous misgiving of nothingness endured. You make it, only to live for another treacherous run.
Where do you go next?
You whip out pen and paper and write.
Some of it’s shit; some is that of greatness that only you can scribe.
Pfft, even some of the shit develops ideas and what was once shittiness is nary that of greatness, but a thriving new story.
You press on.
Suddenly you find yourself creating a piece that is eager to fall onto the white page. Blankness is no more. Words pour out; a metric fuckton of hammering keys unfurls; and, you see it happening.
You have characters going this way and that. There’s more tension than a bunch of hyenas and a lonely boar. You ratchet. And release. Tweak conflicts. Move things in favor of other things. You add fear. More conflict. But you’re careful not to overdo it because that’s a no-no. You wind tension tight like one of those little rubber band balls and just about when the little fucker is about ready to burst, you slowly back off. No big O. Release doesn’t happen.
So yeah, your story is coming along nicely and then you have a rational conversation with yourself and find your face in front of a mirror talking back at you, “Hey you! Yeah, you. Listen to this idea: that story ya been crafting… what about we put that sucker into a screenplay, but for TV.”
You respond to yourself because, why not. “You mean a script?”
Of course yourself responds again because, conversation. “Yeah, that.”
And it’s decided by you and you. You’re now deep into several episodes of script writing.
So it shall be. The writers road twists and takes us where-the-hell-ever.
Also actually this is totally normal.
Hey you. Psssssst!
Remember me? Yeah, it’s been a while. Too damn long, in fact. Like they say, the only thing that time creates is more time. Well, they don’t really say that. I do. And I just did. You can use it, if you want.
I won’t bore you with minuscule anecdotes of why I’ve been absent from the blogosphere. What I shall do is teach you. New things. New words. New phrases. New terms.
Well, one term really.
It’s a new term I just picked up on, and one I wish I knew it when I was a kid because damn, It woulda came in handy.
It’s catchy. Like use it now catchy.
We should thank the new White House Cabinet for this one.
Alternative Facts are now the lexicon. We’ve traversed a vanguard once reserved for the political elite, which will soon roll off the very tongues of every man, women, and child across America and soon, Earth.
See that turkey?
It’s not a turkey. It’s a dinosaur. It’s my new pet dinosaur. His name is Darco. Darco the dinosaur. He WILL save America because Darco isn’t just a turkey – dammit – DINOSAUR. Darco is a special dinosaur.
You just said it’s a turkey. Twice.
No-no. It’s a dinosaur. And it’s mine. Darco.
It looks like a turkey… And you said—
Apparently your eyes deceive you. IT’S A DINOSAUR. AND IT’S MY DINOSAUR. Darco is not a turkey.
*repeats three times to self: Darco is not a turkey. Darco is not a turkey. Darco is not a turkey.*
Also, the dinosaur, which IS NOT A TURKEY, has four legs. Count ‘em, would’ya. FOUR.
The dinosaur, which again is not a turkey, can open beer bottles with his nose, which is not a beak because the DINOSAUR IS NOT A TURKEY; therefore, the DINOSAUR does not have a beak because it is not a turkey. Turkeys have beaks, dinosaurs don’t. Darco has no beak because Darco is not a turkey.
*sings mantra in head: D-a-r-co is not a t-u-r-k-e-y*
So, my turkey – sonofabith – DINOSAUR, likes to fetch because he is a four-legged dinosaur and not a basic turkey. DIN-O-SAUR.
If it’s a “dinosaur”, then why’s it have two legs, a height of about two feet, big wide feathers, wings, and gobble like a goddamn turkey?
First, I do not appreciate your flippant use of quotations to describe my DINOSAUR as a DINOSAUR. My turkey – fuckshit – DINOSAUR is indeed a DINOSAUR. Your trickery will not and cannot work on me.
Turkeys – turkeys don’t even exist. Away with your tomfoolery.
This is utter bullshit! Dinosaurs don’t even exist anymore. And I know what a fuckin’ turkey looks like and that there, is a live fuckin’ turkey.
Well, you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. Your mistruth aside, the turkeys, which do not exist by the way, I’ve seen – errr, once saw – looked EXACTLY like dinosaurs. Like my dinosaur. Darco. EXACTLY. I’m not lying or bullshitting you. You apparently have been trapped in a parallel universe of media lies about turkeys. Again, my turkey – motherfucker! – DINOSAUR…
My dinosaur is not this creature you call a turkey. Sure, he might look like this turkey thing, but I assure you, HE IS NOT A TURKEY.
But-but, he… HE’S A DAMN TURKEY!
Again, my assurance, and words, are all you need to have fact. What I’m giving you is merely an alternative fact. One of which you are very confused. Oh well.
I—I don’t even know what that means.
Ohhh, you will. You will.
“…The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath
It comes up from the screen, crawls across the back of your hand and waits. It’ll sit there, staring at the unsuspecting – you – until it decides it’s time. Tentacles stick, going deep, as it inches up your arm until it reaches your neck. It sniffs around at your scent because—because it needs to be you, control you, smell like you. It wants to OWN you. And it will. Oh, it will.
It moves like a snail, goo and mucus trailing – snail slime – until it gets to your earhole. Then—well, then that insidious little mutherfucker whispers sweetly into your cartilaginous space.
Your writing, it’s going nowhere.
EVERYone thinks your writing stinks.
Your hair – do you go out with it like that? No one does that.
You should just give up. Throw it in. Kick the can.
Why are you lounging around in boxers? No one wants to see that.
You—you thought you could do this, didn’t you?
And then it’s done. The creepy crawly bastard seeps into your headspace, planting tiny little seeds of self-doubt that sprout into massive, booming trees. You go through headsplode. You decide that yeah, boxers aren’t right. I probably should wear a shirt. You change. You become a self-doubter.
SELF-DOUBT IS A HEAPING SHITPILE OF NOTHING.
It’s the staggering enemy of any writer, like ice cream, it is just one of many. It creates laziness, fear, loathing, piss-saturated pants. Or boxers. It’s that rogue wave that topples you when at the sea of words.
SELF-DOUBT IS A SOUL-SUCKING ASSHOLE.
It makes you stop writing. It gets you to stop in the middle of that one story where things happen and shit moves fast – you’re best work – and print it out for the sole purpose of ripping it to shreds and flushing it down the toilet only to grab the remnants and scoop them into your facehole.
Hide yourself from the sweet seduction. Plug your ears to the whispers. Ignore the fugue state it uses to envelop your senses. You must stand tall, boxers and all. Your laptop, the shield. Your pen, the perennial spear. Charge and spike the bullseye of it’s prolapsed anus to the back wall and walk away with a grin.
Alas, you ask, “How—how do we do this? What techniques work against the great beast?”
Many there are. A few I shall share.
STAY CLEAR OF THE SHITTY TRAP
At one time or another, everyone suffers from a bout of self-doubt. True fact. Everyone. Creative types, especially. You. Me. Them. The best writers of our time and before all suffered from it. It tickled at their necks until embedded deep within twisting its pointy claws, penetrating the soul.
You don’t think as you once did. Makes mushy brain goo. You do things you normally wouldn’t. You develop a new standard of nothingness. A truly shitty attitude because, hey, you ask yourself, “Why the fuck even?” your answer is always the same, “Befuckingcause.”
LONELINESS IS NOT A FUCKING FRIEND
We all go through it.
You’re not the only one. The difference, though, is that some writers feel it. They refuse to get pulled down in the bog of shit. They tighten their boots and walk the fuck through it.
They decide they want the ball on the mound with bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth. They wanna be the shooter with four seconds left, down by two with the title on the line. And all other sports metaphors that fit here. You get the picture.
HURRAY, YOU’RE GONNA GET ANOTHER CHANCE
Writers have the one glorious thing that most others don’t. It sets us apart from most, if not all. It’s a splendtastic, monumentous, granddaddy of ‘em all: A do over.
We create all the time. We WILL write bad shit. Monumentally bad shit. But we move past it, stepping on and crushing self-doubt along the way. And know this, nothing is written in stone. We can go back and fix stuff. Edit it. Recreate it. Change the unholy shit out of it.
*Side note: Sure, some things were written in stone, of course, I know this but that was back before self-doubt was a thing. Move on.
CLEAR YOUR MIND OF THE BOGGITY BOG, JIGGITY-FUCK BOOHICKY
Clear your mind.
Deep breathes in.
Deep breathes out.
I SAID REPEAT.
Find your downward dog. Do yoga.
Do something different. Sometimes self-doubt just needs you to make a change. Aim your attention gun at something else. Walk your dog. Walk someone else’s dog. Get an untrained dog and let it walk you. Walk yourself. Read a book. Watch porn. Bake a cake. Watch porn. Visit an animal shelter because animals, DUH. Get yourself a different perspective. It makes you ponder elsewhere other than the twisted tangle of desert vines – the ones with those goddamn spines and thorns – working through your head.
Clear them from your mind.
SERIOUSLY, IT’S NOT MEDICAL BOARD TESTING OR OTHER VITAL THINGS
You’re not trying to practice medicine. This isn’t a large-scale test that’s tantamount to a year’s worth of studying two hours a day. You’re not a Navy Seal magically appearing to save hostages, then disappearing in the wind never to be seen again. You’re not donning a fire suit and charging full-bore into a raging inferno to save little kids, babies, and puppies. Nope. You’re a fucking writer. You mess up, you start over. You delete shit. At worst, the words on your manuscript run from the salty tears of your fear. Those other people mess up, shit goes south. Fast. The epic quest you think you’re on, you’re not. Relax.
TAKE THE TIM TEBOW APPROACH
Failure, which is a breeder of self-doubt, only means that you gave it a shot. You didn’t sit aside and wonder the dreaded “what if” bullshit. You tired and it didn’t work out. You can try again. Tebow considers success as giving your all. Leaving nothing behind. Just like him, we can learn from failure.
I have a thought on this. It goes thusly:
“Failure comes from regret. The two mash hard popping out self-doubt, which jumps up and bites you in the nibbly bits, hanging on until you can no longer sit comfortably. It’s like bumping up and down on a bike, except there’s no seat, just the seat post ramming up your butthole while the devil smiles in the background.”
PISS IN THE FACE OF SELF-DOUBT WITH PRACTICE AND PATIENCE
Self-doubt sits, silent and still, waiting with mouth agape. Heavy wind coming. Turn sideways and let ‘er flicker. Take it in mutherfucker. Take. It. In.
That’s how you handle self-doubt.
Just in case that analogy wasn’t clear, the piss is practice. Waiting for the right wind is patience.
Don’t judge me.
When you settle in the kitchen with your bottle of Booker’s and give it a go at baking that aforementioned cake, you realize, after a few straight-from-the-bottle swigs, that yeah, you need baking practice. You prepare the oven, get your shit straight, fold when told to fold. Stir here and stir there. And then you bake. You bake your ass off. You bake like it’s the absolute last cake of creation.
And you fuck it up.
It’s not moist. It’s not dry. It’s a version of wallpaper paste. It sticks to your mouth like peanut butter, except that shit’s not PB. Nor is it the J of PBJ. It has a fine nothingness flavor bordering on blah and holy hell this is horrid goat shit.
You do not set a ten-pound brick of dynamite in the oven and stomp off. You cannot do that. It’s wrong.
You go back in there, well, first you toss that overcooked slash undercooked piece of shit, then—then you start over. You practice. You grab a chunk of your patience and try it all over again. You repeat that process until you’re awarded the world’s first ever Michelin star for a private kitchen.
Just like getting your new Michelin star, writing takes time to perfect. Hell, scratch that. It’s never perfected. Never ever ever. It’s a constant of practicing and getting better every day.
So remember the 3P process: PISS-PRACTICE-PATIENCE. Just don’t piss on your cake. Ever.
DON’T LET SELF-DOUBT NIGGLE ITS WAY INTO YOUR PSYCHE
REMEMBER: You validate yourself. No one needs to validate your writing worth. Learn that writing around self-doubt is your best defense against the creeping death.