PDA

View Full Version : The key to sudden fiction?



Cath
03-25-2007, 05:39 PM
Sudden fiction describes fiction with a word limit - usually less than 1000 words. But what makes sudden fiction work?

What do you think? What are the key elements of a sudden fiction story? Does it need the same structure and format of a longer short story? Or is there room for experimentation? What makes a sudden fiction story work?

Puma
03-27-2007, 02:11 AM
HI Cath - In my opinion, any story has to be a story, i.e., have a beginning and end and a plot/conflict. I've seen too many of the short fiction attempts that are primarily just description - a setting or an unresolved situation. The short pieces I enjoy reading most are ones that are stories but have twist endings. And doing that in 1000 words is a challenge. Puma

Merry
03-27-2007, 08:05 PM
Doing it in a thousand words is a challenge. Doing it in 150 - or 50 - is even more so. I've recently entered a couple of competitions that asked for flash pieces and they didn't want entrants to exceed 50 words (one of them didn't want more than 50 words including the title) With these, it was up to me what story I wanted to tell, or rather, what topic I used. Some magazines give themes that they want people to write a flash piece about e.g. car park or velcro or homecoming and then leave it up to the author from there. Whether you can fit a story into 50 words or not, well, that's where the challenge lies. It's a bit easier with 150 because you can get more than just description in, there's enough room to develop a scenario. The really short pieces, I suppose, are just vignettes. Little stolen moments that we unveil, briefly.

Kate Thornton
03-27-2007, 11:37 PM
I think it's possible to tell a complete story in 50 or 100 words. Economy of setting is key, and character development must take place outside the story (in the reader's mind)

I think dialogue can be used very effectively in sudden fiction to give story element, character traits and setting all at once.

Cath
03-28-2007, 12:16 AM
I agree, Kate, I love to use dialog to move the story along. It's quick and word-wise very economical.

Puma, I've heard lots of opinions about twist endings. Some people love them, some hate them. I've even heard people say they're the easy way out. Personally, I love them, but I think they're difficult to pull off.

Merry - you raise an interesting point. Can a very short short include conflict and resolution? Or does it need to?

cool_st_elizabeth
03-28-2007, 12:56 AM
I've written 100-word stories with conflict and resolution ... although maybe not the resolution the protag or the reader had in mind.

jvc
03-28-2007, 01:00 AM
I personally like stories with a twist ending. It is hard to get conflict and resolution in stories of less than 100 words, but not impossible.

Nicole_Gestalt
03-28-2007, 01:25 AM
I know this isn't probably a solid answer but i've been looking around at examples of sudden fiction and I get the feeling its sort of like catching a glimpse into someones car or house as you drive past. Its enough to get a general feeling and idea about whats going on but not enough to answer all the questions that might crop up. I could be wrong but thats how I presently feel about Sudden Fiction. :)

Sage
03-28-2007, 07:37 AM
I used to write fanfic based off an RPG my friends played, & every once in a while I would do a short story ('cuz the rest were novellas). Vignettes, I called them. Just a scene from their lives where a little something went wrong & they dealt with it. When I thought about doing short stories after stopping fanfic & getting more serious with writing novels, I wasn't sure if the vignette style was really right for working with short stories. I could get away with vignettes with the others because I had a bunch of long stories where my (limited) readers already had gotten to know the characters & their situation. But the description of sudden fiction sounds a lot more vignette-like, IMO. Am I right about that?

maestrowork
03-28-2007, 09:15 AM
There should be a plot. I agree that a lot of sudden/flash fiction I read were more like a setup/prologue/vignette. I don't mind if the story is just a reveal instead of having real conflict and solutions, or if it has a trick ending, but at least there should be some kind of conclusion.

Bayou Bill
03-29-2007, 06:15 AM
I suppose just about everyone interested in "sudden" fiction has heard of the six word short story by Ernest Hemingway. But in case a few folks haven't or have forgotten:


For sale - baby shoes - never worn.



Bayou Bill :cool:

Cath
03-29-2007, 06:21 AM
Yes, good point, Bill.

And one thing Hemmingway does really well there, for me, is draw on this common understanding of what baby shoes are and what it means when they're unused. He puts the onus on the reader to interpret through their understanding - and that's something I think sudden fiction relies on heavily. Giving enough that the reader can fill in the blanks -- and knowing what they'll fill them with.

Merry
03-29-2007, 05:38 PM
There is a book (of course!) titled:

The World's Shortest Stories: Murder, Love, Horror, Suspense - All This and Much More in the Most Amazing Short Stories Ever Written - Each One Just 55 Words Long! Published by Running Press
ISBN-10: 0762403004
ISBN-13: 978-0762403004

FYI

jdparadise
03-30-2007, 07:08 PM
Crossposted from the "how to critique" thread, 'cuz I didn't know this was here when I posted it...

One thing I came across in myself when critting one of maestro's micros is that I think I think the piece should resonate beyond the page.

That great example above of a micro-micro short gives a fantastic example of this; not only are the plot events of the story unpacked in my mind outside the confines of the story as I think about it, but all the emotions and circumstances that must have accompanied the need to make such a posting also come into play, and they're all in me, not the story.

That the meanings are all in me, not the story, are inherent to the fact that there are multiple ways it could be read: Did the child die? Or did the mother leave the shoe-buying father? Or did the seller just buy a batch of shoes for resale? What I brought to the story determined what I took out of it.

In fics longer than this, of course, more must be solidified for the reader, but I think maybe that allusion-to-larger-life-when-you-think-about-it is a part of what micro-fic is all about...

Cath
03-30-2007, 07:12 PM
And that's exactly what I meant by common understanding, jd. I think you've explained it rather better than I did. :) For me, the skill is in knowing which buttons to push to evoke that response (and I don't claim to be good at it yet).

jdparadise
03-30-2007, 07:45 PM
And that's exactly what I meant by common understanding, jd. I think you've explained it rather better than I did. :)

Yeah, I saw that after I posted to the other forum... :)



For me, the skill is in knowing which buttons to push to evoke that response (and I don't claim to be good at it yet).


It's actually not that hard--the hard part is in deciding what you're trying to accomplish with a given piece, and in getting the words exactly right. The buttons are the easiest part... just think of what evokes the response in you, or in a loved one, or a friend, and find an inventive way of getting there. :)

maestrowork
03-30-2007, 07:51 PM
I suppose just about everyone interested in "sudden" fiction has heard of the six word short story by Ernest Hemingway. But in case a few folks haven't or have forgotten:


For sale - baby shoes - never worn.



Bayou Bill :cool:


That story is all about subtexts, though -- the story itself is not the baby shoes, but the story BEHIND the baby shoes. So in a sense those six words have all the elements:

"For sale" -- it's a set up
"Baby Shoes" -- that's the turn (it's not clothes, jewelry, cars -- it's baby shoes)
and "never worn" -- that's the twist ending

A real story (and not a vignette) must have a beginning (set up), middle, and end. I would even go further and say, like a magic act, it has to have a Pledge, Turn, and Prestige. A short is so short that it really is kind of like a magic act -- people gather around for a short time to hear the story and there has to be a payoff at the end. Or they will say "It's a nice character study but there's no story" or "why did I just read that?"

jdparadise
03-30-2007, 08:12 PM
I really like this "Pledge, Turn, Prestige" thing you've copped. I need to look at lots of stuff in that light, and see how it holds up. Thanks for it!

brokenfingers
03-30-2007, 08:20 PM
A real story (and not a vignette) must have a beginning (set up), middle, and end. I would even go further and say, like a magic act, it has to have a Pledge, Turn, and Prestige. A short is so short that it really is kind of like a magic act -- people gather around for a short time to hear the story and there has to be a payoff at the end. Or they will say "It's a nice character study but there's no story" or "why did I just read that?"Trivia: I can't remember if it was Christopher Priest, the author - or Christopher Nolan, who wrote the screenplay (for The Prestige) but one of them made up those terms. I thought they were actual terms used by magicians.

illogical
04-29-2007, 04:35 AM
I think flash fiction is such a great method of writing because it can be done in so many different ways, but here's what I like to do/look for:

-Starting in the middle of things, like most short stories. It's a great way to hook a reader and want people questioning more.

-A poetic mindset, but not poetic form; i.e., being able to capture vivid images in short phrases or being able to pace the reading well.

-Twist endings are interesting to pull off and make readers want to reread the story until full comprehension; me, I think starting in the middle of things is a twist enough and can lead to a linear yet powerful ending.

-A great imagination! I love thinking, "I wonder what I could do if (this) and (this) happened," and being able to run with it.

-A time restraint: I think some of the best writing can be done in only 30-60 minutes of time, which is basically how I write my stories.

I'm not saying that these all work for everyone, but I think it's a good way to start practicing. I'm still relatively new to writing, so it's good to write for 30-60 minutes, review it and make corrections, then look at it the next day. It's a good way to see what steps you'd like to take for your next piece.

Stijn Hommes
05-22-2007, 02:36 PM
Since you can setup very little in such a limited word count, I think very short fiction works best if your reader can fill in your blanks. Also, the best ones always have a twist ending. (which means it has conflict instead of just being a vignette description)

Twizzle
06-07-2007, 04:47 PM
I love love love great short fiction. It can blow you out of the water like no other writing. BUT, and esp in drabble...people are working so hard on word count, structure, and plot (esp those twist endings) the stories are flat. They're not dynamic. I read them and go, so what? what's the point, why are you telling me this? why should I care? Because I don't.

bear with me, the shift key is dying on my laptop.

You're not touching me, you're not speaking to me. Great writing is far more than a story.

and why do they not zoom in more? you can't develop characters and plot thoroughly in a low word count, so why don't they zoom? give me that split second when someone decides, someone's heart breaks. Read Hemingway's sentence. Why is it good? Because your heart skips...

I just read the most beautiful drabble on a zine. It was a woman, in a car, regretting some rash act she'd committed. It blew me away. It was poignant and powerful. It was a brief moment in a car. But the real story wasn't about her sitting in a car. So many writers miss that essential element.

I'm concerned, because I love sudden fiction, and it seems that point is getting lost and the fiction is suffering for it.

nevada
06-08-2007, 09:57 AM
Also, the best ones always have a twist ending. (which means it has conflict instead of just being a vignette description)

How does one follow the other? Lots of stories have plot without ever having a twist. And just because a story has a twist doesnt mean it has a plot. And as for the "best" ones having twist endings, we'll have to agree to disagree. If you're interested you can read my rant on twist endings here. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=65172

Cath
06-08-2007, 01:14 PM
Also, the best ones always have a twist ending. (which means it has conflict instead of just being a vignette description)
Actually, I'd have to take issue with that one too. Yes, I agree twist endings are a way to introduce or resolve conflict, but I don' t think they're the only way to do it.

That's not to say it's easy to write sudden fiction without a twist and have all the elements of inciting incident, conflict and resolution, but it's not impossible.

Twizzle
06-08-2007, 11:03 PM
That's not to say it's easy to write sudden fiction without a twist and have all the elements of inciting incident, conflict and resolution, but it's not impossible.


Yes!! That's exactly why I hate twist endings, personally. :D But, I think I saw that thread somewhere else...oh oh. will go there...sorry