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!

Genre Mixing

I’ll be honest, Sci Fi is not the only genre I like.

And I will probably try to write something that is not in some sort of Sci Fi subgenre someday. But here’s a good question:

What if I could mix Sci Fi with another genre?
Well I certainly wouldn’t be an innovator.

I think Mel Brooks is a genius. He is a comedian, but his movies are comedy set in another genre. Blazing Saddles is a western, Spaceballs is Sci Fi, Young Frankenstein is horror. And yet they are all comedies.

So what if Science Fiction was the permeating undertone?

SPOILERS IF YOU CONTINUE!

 

Some of you may hate this, but I am a big fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. When I was in grade school, I read those books as fast as I could, seeing the planet Pern in my mind’s eye, wanting to be a dragon rider. But the most interesting thing to me was that in the end, these novels are not fantasy.

They’re Sci Fi.

McCaffrey had this whole world planned out with Dragons and a seemingly supernatural enemy set in what seems to be a feudal time period in the planet’s history. But we find out that that what actually happened was that a group of people came to Pern on spaceships and genetically engineered an indigenous species to create the Dragons. Eventually they uncover the original ship, a supercomputer, and tons of data about why they are on Pern.

In my young mind, Sci Fi and Fantasy were very much two different things.

I read Tolkien’s books and they were far different from Star Wars or Star Trek.

Harry Potter is not Blade Runner or The Matrix.

But I wasn’t paying attention to one of my other loves: Comic Books.

Comic books have a wonderful way of mixing Sci Fi and Fantasy.

Aliens who have powers bestowed by yellow sunlight are susceptible to magic. A Norse god fights alongside a suit of high powered armor with a supercomputer.
They do it pretty well too.

So here’s the big point for today:

 

Don’t be afraid to mix genres. Keep Sci Fi as your starting point, but don’t be afraid to throw in some Fantasy or Thriller elements. Maybe even delve into myths and legends to help complete your story. Make some genetically engineered fantasy creatures to use as an army force.

Don’t be a genre snob. Nobody likes that guy.

 

Anyway, keep writing.

My NaNoWriMo has taken a turn for the worse and I fear I won’t catch back up. But I’ll keep writing and trying. How are your projects going? Let me know.

I also have a guest post coming up at livehacked.com in November, and you should go check out the website and get some helpful tips for marketing your book.

Have a great week everybody, keep calm and Sci Fi

NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month here in good ol’ ‘MURRICA.

Thus NaNoWriMo.

Perhaps you have heard of this. I had not until a few days ago. So I went over to nanowrimo.org and signed up. If you don’t know what the deal is, basically you write a 50k word novel during the month of November.

It sounds like a lot of fun and frustration. So obviously I’m all over it!

I wonder if you would join me? This blog is dedicated to writing science fiction and getting better at it, so why not try to write a short novel? I think the goal is attainable, but will still be quite a challenge.

I’ve already been planning my story, and I can’t wait to get it down.

It will have spaceships, and armies, and alien civilizations!

But I digress.

I chose to do this because it will be a good chance for me to write on a daily basis for a month. If you split up 50k words into 30 days, you have to write about 1667 words a day. That adds up to quite a bit of time.

Quite a bit of time spent writing.

And when you spend time writing, you spend time improving your writing abilities. And that’s what we’re all after right? We want our readers to like our writing, so that they will want us to write more for them. We want to uphold the sacred trust between author and reader.

Plus we want to write cool Sci Fi that doesn’t suck.

So if you haven’t signed up yet, hurry up and do so! Write a novel with me during November, and let’s share the experience of doing something awesome.

Sci Fi Shorts

“If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office.”

George Lucas

He’s right.
And it’s lame.
I get so tired of happy endings; they disgust me.
That’s why I love short stories. And not only reading them, but writing them too.
Edgar Allen Poe was the absolute master of short stories. When I write them, I always keep ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ in the back of my mind. It is one of the creepiest stories in the history of writing.
Which brings me to my first point.
1. Set the mood
I’m in the process of compiling and editing some short stories I’ve written and one thing ties them together: mood. One of them is suspenseful. One is scary. One is ridiculous and funny. But they all have a set mood. Your story may not have a strong plot, but that’s ok. Because it’s about the mood
2. Use your characters
Short stories are not long. Thus the short. I’m a genius (lol). But you don’t have the room to play with prose (like in a novel). So use your characters to drive the story and ultimately the mood. Dialogue is a good way to drive comedy. Monologue fear.
3. Don’t worry about word count
A short story is pretty much defined as under 7500 words. That’s a lot of words. When you get over that many words you have gone on your way to a novella. Don’t write a novella. Write a SHORT story. It doesn’t have to be long. Remember: it’s about the mood. Moods come and go. You don’t get in moods for days or weeks. You get in moods for short periods of time. So make the story short. I shoot for around 2000 words. Just enough to get something going then yank it away. Because it’s about the mood.
Don’t put the idea of short stories away. You have to write everyday. Right? How many days have you sat in front of Scrivener and not been able to work on your novel? If you’re like me, a lot. So write a short story instead. Who knows? Maybe you’ll write enough to compile an anthology. That’s what I’m working on.
Tell me about your short stories.
My cousin Jeff shared some of his ideas with me at our family reunion and I loved them. What are your ideas? I promise I won’t steal them.

 

Why Sci Fi?

Sci Fi as a genre has always fascinated me.

It’s fantastical.

It makes me think.

It has lightsabers and giant robots.

My earliest memories of Sci Fi are of Star Wars. When i was a kid the spaceships were the coolest thing to me. I just finished writing a novel, and every time my I pictured my space fighters all I could see were X-wings.

it just gets stuck in my head.

Star Trek TOS is also a favorite of mine, but for a different reason: the stories.

I’m a youth pastor when I’m not writing books, and one of the best parts of my job is the Bible. It’s full of great stories, many of which have been replicated throughout literature for millennia. I am an individual who is greatly engrossed in story.

My good friend Grant Barnes is just as avid a SciFi fan as myself, and between the two of us we are the Nerdcore Theologians. Mostly him, I guest post at nerdcoretheology.com. There at his blog we intermingle nerdy things and theology; it’s real fun.

But I want to know what drives you to Science Fiction.

What is it about this particular genre that grabs you?

For me it’s the story and the spaceships.

Please, leave comments below, and I’ll do my best to get back to you!