Thursday, January 31, 2013

Guest Author Carolyn Moncel: A Flash Story A Day Keeps Writer's Block Away

Carolyn Moncel currently resides in Lausanne,  Switzerland with her husband and two daughters. Encounters in Paris is her first work of fiction. Her two latest collections include:5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories and Railway Confessions - A Collection of Short Stories, a finalist in the 2012 Global eBook Awards Short Story Category. An untitled young adult novel co-authored with her teenage daughter under the pen name Ella Swinton will debut in spring 2013.  Visit her website at

“…Write a short story in one day so it has a skin around it, its own intensity, its own life, its own reason for being.”Ray Bradbury
I couldn’t agree more with the venerable American science fiction author, Ray Bradbury.  Writing short stories is, indeed, its own art form. By writing one short story daily, a writer cannot help but become more skilled in his/her craft.  Short stories provide authors with opportunities to create thoughtful, introspective prose.  In that process of creation, authors develop characters, settings and plots with laser-like precision.
However, writing flash or micro fiction (a work between 500 to 2,500 words) is even more challenging because telling a complete story, utilizing few words means that each word must be carefully selected.  Every word must show and tell. And, isn't that what high school English teachers preach to students, anyway?  Stylistically, flash fiction allows an author to say their piece, get off the page and move on to another story. It's the perfect way to train and keep writing until inspiration for a longer work hits.
Sometimes getting started can be very difficult, so here are some tips to get the creative juices flowing:
9781453898215-frontcover3.jpg1.      Start in the middle of the story.  There isn't a lot of time to set elaborate scenes or build characters.  Jump right into the center of the conflict and build the rest of the story from there. 
2.      Limit your location and setting.  Make the reader feel as if they are stepping into a precise moment in time and participating with the characters in their own world. 
3.      Avoid becoming an interloper. Instead, act if you are eavesdropping on an illicit conversation and write your story as if this is the case.
4.      Don't use too many characters.  One or two characters are perfect for flash fiction because you don’t have time to describe your characters in intricate detail.  Sometimes even giving the character names is too much, so don’t – unless the name conveys additional story information or saves your word count.
5.      The last sentence is the ticket.  The last sentence of the story is an extraordinary opportunity to make the reader think.  It's not the end of the story, but instead the beginning.  This is the place where the reader starts to process what they have just read, and as a result, he or she may experience a wave of emotions (happiness, anger, sadness, confusion, etc.)  As writers this is our goal. 

So the next time you experience an intense desire to write a story -- especially a short one, follow Mr. Bradbury’s advice: “…Get it down…There’s a reason why the idea occurred to you at that hour anyway, so go with that and investigate it.


Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Carolyn!

Great tips! I'm intrigued by the idea of writing a short story a day. Think I'm going to try this.

William Doonan said...

Enjoyed your post, Carolyn. I'm a big fan of flash fiction. Flash stories are not super-easy to write, but they're somehow less intimidating than longer stories. And when you get a story published, nobody is going to ask you for the word count. A published story is a published story. I like

Charles Gramlich said...

When I'm blocked this is how I go about getting unblocked. Start writing something and holding the word count down.

Neil Waring’s –Western Ramblings said...

Every great story ends with a great line or something to think about.

Carolyn Moncel said...

Thanks for reading, William! You are absolutely right! Writing flash fiction can be quite difficult sometimes. Personally, I find myself wanting to add so much more to the story. Initially I do, then I try to strip it all back during the editing. Any word, thought or idea that doesn't instantly improve the story must go! :)

Carolyn Moncel said...

Thank you, Liane! It's such a pleasure for me to join you! Definitely give flash fiction a try. Honestly, writing flash gave me the courage to start writing fiction.

Carolyn Moncel said...

Hi Charles, that's it! I write a bit of flash just to get something down on paper. From there, you can take it in any direction that I choose!

Carolyn Moncel said...

Hi Neil, yes every great story should end this way. Then again, I can think of a few stories that disappointed me in the end because the ending or last sentence didn't seem quite right.