Is Writing Flash Fiction for You?

image by intographics

How many words are allowed?

From my research, the suggested word counts for flash fiction in this electronic reading age were:

  • Less than 1,500
  • 300-1,000 (10-300 is micro fiction)
  • 100 – 1,500
  • Up to 100

What are the elements that must be included in flash fiction?

  • image by RyanMcGuire
    Beginning, middle, and end
  • Characters, setting, and predicament
  • Struggles, conflict, resolution

So, flash fiction requires everything a novel provides. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35 is a good example of early flash fiction.

How does one write flash fiction?

Flash fiction writers depend on these skills:

  • Focusing on one theme.
  • Setting the stage with an image that hints at the story.
  • Limiting characters.
  • Revealing the setting through the characters actions.
  • Starting in the middle of the action with a strong predicament.
  • Designing the holes or left-out words to be as important as the included words.
  • Employing indirect means to get ideas across.
  • Letting the reader fill in the blanks.
  • Compressing wordiness into strong verbs and nouns.
  • Worsening the situation
  • Keeping up the suspense.
  • Giving the epiphany before the ending.
  • Resolving the situation
  • Finishing with an emotional punch—not necessarily a gotcha but an ending that causes the reader to continue to think about what’s happened.

 

image by Comfreak

Quick Tips:

  • Flash fiction is about a moment.
  • Be Subtle.
  • Readers like space on the page.

Here’s my flash fiction piece that made it to the finals in ACFW SF Bay Area’s Elevator Fiction Contest. We were allowed 250 words. I’ve revised it in response to judges’ comments.

Example

Gone

Derek winked at himself in the mirror. “You’re the man.”
He grabbed his keys. There lay the not mailed electric payment.
“Man!” He’d be lucky to have power tonight.
He jogged to his truck. Time for a stop at Julie’s? Oh, yeah. Then the post office. Then get him a cola and maybe get to work on time.
Julie’s mama opened the door.
“Hey, Mama Garth.”
“Don’t Mama Garth me. She’s gone.”
“Gone?”
“Do I need to spell it?”
“It’s spelled you’re irresponsible,” Daddy Garth shouted from inside.
Slam!
What’d made the Garths so grumpy? Derek pulled into the mini-mart.
“Hey, Derek! Hear you lost your woman,” Boyd yelled from the Rook table in back.
Fear niggled Derek’s gut. “What you been smokin’, Boyd?”
Jerry aimed a finger at Derek. “The truth, you fool.”
Was everybody crazy? He forced a grin. “Later, girls.”
Derek sped, gulping cola. No time to stop by Julie’s work. But he would.
The electric bill lay on the passenger seat.
Man! He gunned the truck, swerved into a lot, and braked alongside the red-white-and-blue mailbox as a mail van pulled away from it with Wednesday’s pickup.
Figured.
He flung the bill toward the slot. It hit metal and fluttered to the pavement.
“Blast!”
Outside the truck, Derek groped under the mailbox.
“Gotcha.”
He withdrew a pink envelope.
What the…? Addressee: Derek Williams. Sender: Julie Garth.
How long had it lain there?
He ripped it open.
Derek, no diamond on my finger by Tuesday, I’m gone.

Research, suggestions, and tips in writing popular flash fiction. Click to tweet.

What tip can you share for writing flash fiction?

Book Covers: Help in Creating or Giving Input for the Design

 

image by uhexos

What Is the Book Cover

 

  • Images: the artwork or photos
  • Words: the fonts of titles and content
  • Content: title, taglines, back-cover description, and bio
  • Blurbs: endorsements

 

Good Book Covers

 

A good book covers will:

  • be more than a lovely cover; it will communicate.
  • capture the essence of the story.
  • be a reader’s first interaction with an author’s story and style.
  • shape the store browser’s opinion of the story.
  • market and advertise the book.
  • be displayed on bookmarks, posters, book blogs, and other media.
  • make its observer wonder.
  • be created for the same audience as the story was written for.
  • vie for browsers’ and book buyers’ attention.
  • beg those perusing to take a second glance.
  • compete for the attention of busy book reviewers.
  • image by Unsplash
    have a nice balance between the images and words and fonts.
  • remain within the norms of its genre, but be noticeable.
  • symbolize what will gradually be more obvious to the reader as he reads the story.
  • portray the tone and genre, as well as mood and theme.

 

Why a Book Cover Works

 

  • A well-designed cover tells the browser that the content has value to the customer.
  • For first-time authors, a great cover will make up for anonymity.
  • Interesting, intriguing covers shout interesting and intriguing story (and vice versa).

 

What Is Used in Creating a Book Cover

 

  • Depending on what’s available, some notes, a synopsis, the manuscript, and/or information about the author to understand his style.
  • Information about the period, season, and setting.
  • An idea of the story’s tone and mood.
  • Example book covers or photos.
  • Listed items important to the story, such as people or animals; be specific as to the type.
  • Physical descriptions of the hero and the heroine.

 

image by waldryano

How Authors Are Involved

 

Sometimes authors are:

  • not afforded input.
  • asked for limited input.
  • sent mock-ups and asked to choose one.
  • ignored as to their input and choices.
  • wise to let the professionals do their job.
  • resigned to love or hate their covers.

 

When You’re Asked for Input, Take Advantage

 

  • Spend time in a bookstore and
    • notice what covers have interested browsers,
    • study covers in your genre that target your audience, and
    • evaluate what makes books stand out.
  • image by Kevin-K-Model
    Suggest colors to be used. Red, yellow, and orange are considered high-arousal colors and make items appear closer. Blue, green, and purple are low-arousal colors and make things seem farther away.
  • If you have a series, ask that certain words, fonts, or images be replicated to identify the book as part of a series.
  • When choosing example photos, remember simplicity outranks complexity. Unnecessary items are distracting.

Help in the creation or input for your book cover’s design. Click to tweet.

What in a book cover grabs you when you’re browsing?

An Easy Way to Use Archetypes to Enrich Your Characters

image by sambeet

Archetype is defined here as a type of person whose typical behaviors are the same as those of others of the same type. For example, cowards exhibit some typical behaviors. They fear danger, lack courage, and avoid or quit dangerous situations.

Before I list 79 archetypes and a way to use them, here are some of their benefits in fiction.

Why Archetypes Are Useful in Building Character

 

They can help to

  • define the roles of characters.
  • narrow our characters so they’re not like all the other characters in our story.
  • expand and deepen our characters so they are multidimensional.
  • add interest to a character when using a distorted version of an archetype.
  • make a character original when choosing an unexpected archetype.
  • make realistic and identifiable characters because archetypes are built on real typical behaviors.
  • create conflict, tenderness, and tension when characters appear together in groups because each has a unique mixture of archetypal behaviors.
  • remind us to make characters act, react, and make choices in accordance with or occasionally the opposite of their archetypes.
  • bring out flaws in a character that he can conquer by story’s end.

Story Characters

image by Voltordu

 

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Love Interest
  • Mentor
  • Sidekick
  • Other Character

 

 

An Easy Way to Use Archetypes

 

  • For each character above, choose two to three archetypes from the list below. Mix up archetypes across characters.
  • Start with the Protagonist and understand from his combination of archetypes, how he thinks, acts, and reacts and what he dislikes in others.
  • For the Antagonist, perhaps he’s the epitome of what the protagonist dislikes. Or they have characteristics from a same archetype that helps them understand each other.
  • Since readers like the idea that opposites attract, choose at least one archetype for the Love Interest that’s opposite to one of the Protagonist’s.
  • The Mentor doesn’t have to be wise. Possibly, he’s accomplished in the area where the Protagonist is weak.
  • The Sidekick could be a combination of archetypes, some the Protagonist likes and others he tolerates. Possibly, the only thing that makes them a team is how loyal the sidekick is.

 Archetypes

 

Addict

Hero

Masochist

Rebel

Survivor

Analyst

Heroine

Masquerader

Reformer

Teacher

Anti-hero

Imposter

Mediator

Revolutionary

Tempter

Artist

Innocent

Messenger

Rival

Thief

Benefactor

Introvert

Monster

Rogue

Thrill-Seeker

Betrayer

Invalid

Mother Figure

Ruler

Trickster

Bully

Investigator

Narcissist

Sage

Tyrant

Rule Keeper

Jester

Outlaw

Samaritan

Victim

Corrupter

Know-it-all

Parent

Scapegoat

Villain

Coward

Leader

Peacemaker

Scholar

Waif

Dreamer

Loner

Penitent

Seductress

Warrior

Enabler

Lover

Perfectionist

Show-off

Watcher

Explorer

Loyalist

Pessimist

Skeptic

Womanizer

Feminist

Macho-man

Pleaser

Slave

Youth

Fool

Manipulator

Predator

Spoilsport

 

Go-Getter

Martyr

Psychopath

Superpower

 

Example:

Protagonist: an analyst, an explorer, and an imposter.

Sidekick: an addict, pessimist, and loyalist. 

What came to mind is:

Dickson is a young college man. One summer, he poses as a census taker and travels from town to town to collect data and write a paper on the perfect single woman. While he charms young women, he records 1-10 ratings for twenty traits he deems important.

Dickson’s teenage brother, Dean, travels with him. The only things that placate and keep Dean with Dickson is the promise of receiving a used jeep and a daily supply of three six-packs of diet soda loaded with caffeine. He believes Dickson won’t find the perfect women going door-to-door, and he reminds his brother daily of the fact. But as long as he has his caffeine fix, he faithfully keeps the truck running in case he spots a cop cruiser or Dickson’s interview ends badly.

79 archetypes and how to use them to create interesting characters. Click to tweet.

What archetypes could you pull together to make an interesting character?