You want to write great flash fiction? You want to be a respected practitioner of the genre? Here’s what Hemingway had to say about flash fiction.
Now of course Hemingway didn’t actually give me a check list for flash fiction; but anyone who has read the fiction on this blog can sense the impact this great American writer has had on my work. So, here is a check list of the things I’ve learned from Poppa about writing flash fiction and that I try, with different levels of success, to apply.
1) Don’t explain why your characters do what they do. Just have them do it.
2) If you want a character to be sympathetic give that character a flaw to struggle mightily against.
3) The weather and the physical environment in flash fiction are not only important for grounding the story in reality but they should also hint to the reader the “deeper” meaning of the story.
4) Write about things, not ideas. The ideas drive the story but should not show on the surface of the story. The actions of the characters are the projections of the ideas.
5) Make sure each character has a different agenda. Only in this way will each character act and speak differently; so that you won’t have to explain what makes each character different. And in flash fiction you have to use as few words as possible to “show” the story thru the actions of the characters.
6) Sex and violence are great ways to grab a reader’s attention. But the sex and violence had better point to a larger issue or the sex and violence will cheapen the story, the characters and the writer.
7) Clarity, clarity, and more clarity until there is no possibility of the reader getting lost.
8) If you’re a male writer take extra care with your female characters. They should seem to represent real people, too.
9) Know what your’re writing about. Just because the story is fiction doesn’t mean it’s alright to let your ignorance show proving you don’t know what you’re writing about.
10) And finally revise, revise, revise and revise some more. Good flash fiction only comes from the ability to give an infinite amount of attention to detail. The reading of the story should be effortless; which always means the writing of the story was not.
Now none of the above points should be taken as gospel; but they’re a pretty good place to start.