The Art of Flash Fiction

I know what you’re thinking.

What is flash fiction? Is that where the main character wears a red suit and is surrounded by yellow lightening?

No.

Maybe.

But the much broader term ‘Flash Fiction’ generally means any piece of fiction less than 2000 words. That’s around a 5-6 page story, just enough to pique interest and present an idea.

I love flash fiction.

I’m currently assembling a lot of the flash fiction I’ve written into an anthology, or reader, or whatever you want to call it. There are stories that deal with longing, loss, space, robots, the origin of a species, all kinds of things.

And all of these stories are extremely short. All of them combined might make 50 pages.

So how does that even work?

Ideas rather than plots or Characters

Flash fiction is much more about how the story makes the reader fell than how good the plot/character development/whatever metric people use to score a longer story is. A well written piece of flash fiction will leave the reader thinking about the overarching ideas of the story. Not to say that a great plot or character can’t be developed in that short of a frame, but the idea is usually what sticks.

Hate Charles Dickens

I (Will) am well documented as saying that I hate Charles Dickens writing. It has too many words. Likewise, a flash fiction piece should be concise and not use flowery language or overly complicated words to describe something. Be concise. Tell a story, don’t give a dissertation.

Trust the Reader

Readers are smarter than we authors think. Most of the time anyway. If you think the scene is not properly set up by being concise, think again. Readers can fill in any gaps you think are missing, because they are smart individuals. They have probably forged scenes in their heads before. It’s ok to let go of their hands. You can do it. Stop saying so many words. You’re becoming an adjective farmer and flooding the market. Stop it.

 

Flash Fiction is a great way to start a daily writing habit, and also to make a little extra cash once you can collect them into an anthology. Don’t sleep on it.

Write a story!

Hacking Science Fiction

Here’s the problem with Science Fiction:

It’s made up.

There’s no right or wrong way to approach it, provided the story is presented interestingly enough to capture attention.

But how does one go about exploring their ideas and making them a viable, sellable, readable product?

Well there are a few hacks…

 

News Feed

Don’t sleep on the news feed for story ideas. Discoveries are being made every day, and one of those stories may lead you to inspiration.

Old Stories

Do you really like the ideas explored in an older science fiction story but want to put a new twist on it? Go right ahead.

Collaboration

Collaboration is a much underused hack. There’s always someone in our lives who has ideas just as good as ours; why not ask them to write a book with you? If you can each churn out 25k words, that’s well on the way to a novel length story.

Listen to The Silly Robots Podcast

We have tons of ideas for you to take! For free! Here’s our latest episode, which deals with the craft of writing:

 

https://simplecast.com/e/28285?style=light

DVD Giveaway

Don’t forget that we have some Hayao Miyazaki DVD’s to give away for listening to the podcast. Respond on Twitter or Facebook with the right answer and hashtag and you can win! The Wind Rises is still up for grabs!

Coming Attractions

The Podcast

First of all, thanks so much for keeping up with this blog even though posting has been sporadic. A lot of time goes into the podcast, taking away time to write stuff down here.

with that being said,

 

have you checked out our podcast?!

If you haven’t, you can find it on iTunes, The Silly Robots podcast, or the podcast website.

 

We’re working really hard to get great content, news, interviews, and all kinds of other things on there, and would appreciate it if you left us a review and rating on iTunes.

We have some great new episodes coming up, including a special Valentine’s day episode, a Deadpool movie review, more of our popular Not a Nerd Trivia series, and tons of other stuff.

Writing

Don’t worry, Will is still writing. He just finished the first chapter of a graphic novel, has submitted a few short stories to magazines, and is working on all sorts of other stories. Some of it will even be out before you know it.

Grant is also working on a few projects, as well as his wonderful sermon blog every week.

So stay tuned for all of that, and you can even get some free stories when you sign up for

 

Patreon

Yes yes yes…we have started a Patreon campaign. We are announcing it on this week’s podcast to go along with this post. And this week’s Valentine’s day episode is totally hilarious by the way.

 

But here’s what we’re asking:

We want you to partner with us so we can bring you even more incredible stuff. We love creating things and we love giving it away, and by partnering with us it will give us more time and resources for all of that stuff. And the packages for giving are pretty cool, giving you free stuff that isn’t available anywhere yet, plus some airtime and production experience. All in all this is a win win win, as Michael Scott would say, and we hope that you will partner with us in this endeavor. It starts at 5 bucks a month and offers some great incentives.

Well that’s everything going on here in Silly Robots land for the time being, thanks for reading and listening, and we hope to hear from you soon!

important links and stuff

Silly Robots Twitter

Silly Robots Facebook

Will’s Twitter

Grant’s Twitter

 

Speculation and the Art of Fiction

It’s always something that is thought or said that invigorates the mind of a writer. For instance, when pitching Star Wars episode VII to J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy simply asked, “Who is Luke Skywalker?”

This was enough to get J.J. to take on the project and co write the movie with Lawrence Kasdan. Similarly, for my most recently published fiction, I asked the question, “How would a superintelligent AI act towards humans?”

 

Simple questions, but important none the less. Once the question is asked, speculation must replace curiosity. One must move from wondering about the question to answering the question. Sometimes the questions get radically profound answers, leading one to see the beauty and terror of The Matrix.

Other times the answer is midichlorians.

But what separates good speculation from bad?

 

Plausibility

Plausibility? Aren’t we talking about fiction here?

Sure. But that doesn’t mean you can just wave your hand and it not be a plot hole. I always like the Star Trek TNG answer to the transporters.

“Are the transporters online?”

“Almost, we need to fix something on the Heisenberg compensators.”

What does a Heisenberg compensator do exactly? I don’t know. All I know is it compensates for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which is the main barrier for technology like that. It isn’t a matter of fiction, per se, but it is a matter of plausibility.

Originality

Originality is a tricky subject, because one could argue that it no longer exists. While that may be somewhat true, presentation is always original whether good or bad. An original presentation can make or break the fiction we are trying to write.

In order to bring this to the forefront, remember to speculate from your own viewpoint and not a preconceived notion. The status quo never stirred anyone to great achievement, unless it moved them in tangent.

Consumability

Ok that isn’t really a word.

But what i mean is that it has to be palatable. Someone has to want to read/watch/play it. Bad fiction that is of the most wildly original speculation is still bad fiction. The point of being an artist is to have an audience that will consume the art, otherwise you’re just a pompous windbag who nobody cares about.

Don’t be that person.

Create things that are good. Get an editor. Hire an artist. Rewrite the sentence until it makes sense. Do whatever it takes.

 

The Art of Fiction is one that is one that heavily relies on speculation. A rocket scientist can not speculate on the right amount of fuel to get to the space station. An accountant cannot speculate on the cost of a mission that the rocket scientist is purchasing fuel for.

But a writer can speculate about how both of them do their jobs.

Happy Writing.

The Silly Robots Podcast

There’s a new thing in town. And by town I mean the internet. And by the internet I mean the thing that drives us all mad.

But I digress.

The Silly Robots Podcast is here, and we would love it if you would join us. Your hosts are Silly Robot Will and Silly Robot Grant, and we talk about lots of stuff. And things. We also have guests. You know, podcast stuff. The first episode is already up, and we will be publishing new episodes every Friday. Please subscribe! You can find us on iTunes, and also at our website.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of our upcoming episodes…

  1. Intro
  2. Interview with author Nick Thacker
  3. Music Review – The Dear Hunter: Act IV, Rebirth in Reprise/CHVRCHES Every open Eye
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu Ray review

Thanks for reading, now please go listen! You can also follow the show on Twitter and Facebook!

Have you picked up the latest book?

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Westerns and Sci Fi

I have a confession:

I love westerns.

A lot.

Sometimes, I sit and watch them for hours on the Encore Western Channel.

It may be a condition.

And what’s funny is that I like westerns more for the characters than the story. As I’ve written before, I’m much more about writing a good story than I am a “good” character. But it’s the strong characters in Westerns that draw me to them. From John Wayne playing John Wayne in all of his movies, to Val Kilmer and Kurt Russel in ‘Tombstone’, Robert Taylor in ‘Lomgmire’, and Emily Blunt in ‘Looper’ (ok kind of a stretch, but she was talking in a drawl and carried a shotgun…) this is what draws me to them.

And while Sci Fi tends to lean more heavily on story than character, at least the sci fi I like the most, the two are very similar. Let’s look at some comparisons to further connect my two favorite genres.

Frontier

The frontier of the American West is romanticized to no end in westerns. Sprawling open range with mountains in the distance, the threat of natives attacking the invading settlers or vice versa, and the quest to tame the wild ground found in the throws of exploration.

Or to put it another way,

“To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

When Gene Rodenberry pitched Star Trek to executives back in the 60’s, he billed the show as ‘a wagon train to the stars’. Because of this, James T. Kirk is your classic frontiersman, albeit with a space ship and laser guns instead of a covered wagon and a .45. This genius set up by one of the 20th century’s best creative minds has forever cemented Star Trek in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

Frontiersman

As stated about Kirk above, many Sci Fi characters share traits with the heroes of westerns. Mal and Zoe from Firefly come to mind. Han Solo and Chewbacca. The list can go on and on. All of these characters have a strong sense of themselves, and hardly waiver on anything. They know that their road is one seldom traveled and rarely conquered. But they do it anyway.

Guns Blazing

Everyone like a good shootout. Therefore Sci Fi Westerns have gun fights. Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Cowboys and Aliens, shoot even that one episode of Dr. Who was a western mash up with gun fights, fancy hats, and horses. The two genres are intertwined with enough mystery and romance regarding firearms as anything.

Breathtaking Scenery

There are two things I will never tire of:

Mountains and Space.

I runaway to the mountains every summer, and I love looking at new pictures from NASA and other space agencies that like to take pictures. In fact I’ve made several graphics from pics anyone can download from the JPL.

Infograph3

2015-07-18 20.43.50

Westerns and Sci Fi love to take advantage of beautiful scenery. ‘Longmire’ has quickly become one of my favorite shows because of the awesome mountain views, and Walt Longmire’s love of one liners and lever action rifles. Nothing consumes me more than stars and their dust the mountains are made of.

So go watch or read a western. I know you watch and read science fiction. If you like Native American culture and mysticism, then ‘Longmire’ is a good way to break into the Western Genre. Plus it’s set in the present so you don’t have to wade through an hour of how the settlement came to be before the action starts. It’s exclusively on Netflix now, so have fun watching ALL THE EPISODES!

Peace

Have you checked out the latest from The Silly Robot?

Uncanny Divide

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Pantsing your way to a story

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

Stephen King – “On Writing”

There are tons of articles about plotting and pantsing. It’s a little absurd. And I really do get why plotters do what they do. I think it’s probably more of a personality preference than a successful writing strategy. I, however, despise outlines and will probably never use one when I write other than to keep track of what I have already written. Here are three reasons why i don’t use outlines, at least anymore, and why it’s a good thing.

My Characters suffer

When writing a story, characters seem to pop out of nowhere in my head, and then I find interesting things for them to do. I simply can not do this if I outline. I tend to have a main character who finds a bunch of cardboard NPC’s if I do this. It just isn’t a good thing.

But if i go in and just tell the story that’s in my head, this resolves itself. I may only have one to three characters in a story, but they will be far more interesting than the scallywag who happened to tell my main character where to find some jewel on a side quest.

plot points are not a story

When I relay the events of my life by telling a story, I do not order them out on a sheet of paper or in Scrivener before I tell my friends. Sure I have an idea of how it went down, but that doesn’t mean the events are perfectly ordered, or even that my story suffers from them being slightly out of order. Drawing from the quote at the top, if you found the fossil’s head next to its foot, would you say that it wasn’t a T-Rex? Or that you found it in an interesting way?

what if something changes

So you’re writing at full steam, hitting all of your plot points, and then it happens. You notice that one of your points down the line won’t jive with the story as it is being written. And if that point doesn’t flow, then several others are rendered moot. All of a sudden your outline is useless and needs to be -almost- completely redone. Well that’s a lot more time wasted. I did this a couple of times and I almost broke my computer. Maybe I’m just a bad outliner and that’s why that happened.

Oh well!

If you need to outline, I get it. Not everyone can sit down and just write a story. In fact, some writers believe outlining is how to beat writer’s block. If that’s you, more power for it. If not, I hope i gave you some insight into why I ditched my outlines, and maybe you should too.

Have you checked out the latest release?

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