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!

Uncanny Divide:Six Tales of Artificial Intelligence

Here it is folks, the new Short Story anthology from Turtleshell Press and Happy Pants Books:

51mTpqUvu9L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

It features myself, and two other great authors you should check out. These six stories feature some thought provoking fiction on the subject of artificial intelligence, and will keep you engaged until the end.

Plus they’re short, so they read quickly and leave you wanting more!

Please check it out, buy a copy, leave a review, and help support this little endeavor. We all would appreciate it and the more we get funded, the more we can do what we love, which is write stories for all of you to enjoy.

Click the link, and begin the journey!

Uncanny Divide: Six Tales of Artificial Intelligence

Beta Readers

If you are a writer, chances are you have a certain fear that all writers have:

Rejection.

The ugly reared head of criticism.

Of it’s not good enough.

Of the word, No.

Which is why you need a standing army of people to tell you that before you make your writing public. With a steady second group of eyes to go over your work, your success will surely be greater.

Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation

But this is for editors!

Wrong. If you send your work to an editor with a bunch of silly mistakes, the editor is never going to work with you again. you want your editor to focus on more important things like structure. With beta readers, your mistakes will become more prevalent. If three or more people are reading your manuscript, they will find your mistakes. Cleaning up your manuscript before it ever goes to an editor is professionalism, not tedious extra work.

Story

One of my beta readers recently called me and gave me a detailed critique of one of my stories. He said he was ‘entranced’ with it until a certain point. At said point, he became very confused and wasn’t thrilled with the rest of the story. Good criticism. Prompting me to rewrite that chunk of the story. This particular reader is a fan of hard sci fi, consequently the genre this story is in, so he had a lot of expertise on how to fix it.

Choosing

I had a beta reader who always said my stories were bad. They didn’t really give a reason, they just didn’t like them. In a later conversation, I found out that this person did not like reading short stories. Therefore, they are not a beta reader for me anymore.

When choosing beta readers, there are a few things to keep in mind other than the mistakes they can catch. They should be people who enjoy reading the genre you write in. Hopefully that genre is Sci Fi and you have an army of nerds awaiting your next creation!

Be careful with family. If you have a cousin or sibling that likes reading, by all means let them read for you. But your mom probably won’t give you any good constructive criticism. Make sure that if you have beta readers in your family that they will be beta readers and actually help you become a better writer. And being a better writer is what we are all trying to achieve.

The Top 5 Reasons Steampunk is Awesome

abe-lincoln-steampunk

I know what you’re thinking.

I don’t need 5 reasons to know Steampunk is awesome.

And I agree. If nothing else, the name drips excellence.

Or you’re thinking:

What the heck is Steampunk? Is that some kinda band?

I’ve been delving into the wonderful world of Steampunk lately, taking a stab at writing a story in the genre. I’m really enjoying it, and I hope that other people like my story when I’m done with it. I’m right around 8000 words right now with little to no signs of slowing down. Hopefully I’ll get to 10k or even 15k and have a novelette or novella on my hands. It’s a fun ride to be on.

But Steampunk is a genre with roots that go way back. I mean waaaaaaay back. But here is my top 5 list of Steampunk that influenced me.

5. The Big O

The Big O was one of my favorite anime shows when I was in Junior High and High School. It’s set in the near future where something has erased everyone’s memories and Roger has to negotiate deals.

Yeah it’s kinda weird.

But in a good way. To quote my friend Grant Barnes, “It’s Batman with a Giant Robot.”

It’s more noir than straight up Steampunk, but it still has steam powered robots and cool gadgets. The series  goes more to the Cyberpunk side of things towards the end of the series, but I like that too. It’s just a lot of fun and worth a watch.

4. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk

I bought this several months ago and it is still filling parts of my day with interesting reads. It has a 3.5 out of 5 rating at Goodreads and Amazon, and that’s fair. It’s an interesting read that’s deeply entrenched in the genre, so non-steampunk fanpeoples probably won’t enjoy it as much as the true nerds. (Such as myself.)

3. Howl’s Moving Castle

Another wonderful anime set in a fantastical steam powered world. A gripping story with stunning visuals, it is a must see for steam fans and normal people alike. It’s an emotional roller coaster with everything you expect from Hiyao Miyazaki. You should probably go watch it right now.

2. Metropolis

A wonderful romp through a retro futuristic steam powered world. There’s robots, bird guys, and lots of other strange things to keep your interest piqued.

1. Final Fantasy IX

My absolute favorite Final Fantasy (and Steampunk thing in general). There are airships, steam powered monsters, and an entire city made of clock gears! What else could a steampunk want? Go dig out your Playstation or find a rom online. Great game.

Well there you have it, my top 5 Steampunk things. I hope that you will go check them out and become a fan of the genre. (if you aren’t already!)

And now I will leave you with a 500 word excerpt from the story I’m working on!

It’s unedited so be gentle.

Free writing! Enjoy!

“If I may sir, I don’t think doubling shifts will do us any good.”

Pennyworth jumped from his seat and leaned over the table towards Higgins.

“What did you say?”

Higgins shifted in his seat and then began his ploy.

“Well you see sir, the reason earnings are down is because we are losing workers by the day. They are working their hearts out to bring in the Glow, but some of them are so deep that their bodies can’t handle the stress and they tucker out. Forty two men were lost this past month alone! Forty two!”

Pennytop sank back into his high backed chair and pulled out his watch again. He rubbed it on his nose, then scratched his hair with it, and finally put it in his mouth and began tasting its golden shell.

“How do you propose we fix this problem Higgins?”

“Well sir, I,”

“And fix it cheaply…

Higgins cocked his head to the side as he produced the drawings he had been working on for the past month. Pennytop leaned over to look at them, then he looked at Higgins with an expression of bewilderment.

“What in the devil is this? It looks to be… a … mechanical…man…”

Higgins smiled through his bushy grey beard.

“Precisely sir. We build a few of these to take on some of the mining load, and we keep our workers while production and profit soar!”

Higgins had raised his arms as if to imitate an eagle, but Pennytop took no notice. The mechanical man had piqued his interest. He began calculating the cost in his head, noting every detail Higgins had written on the yellowed paper. The startup would be steep, per usual, but the returns would be far greater. The dollar signs had begun creeping through his corneas and into his pupils.

“Do it Higgins. I will spare no expense on this project. Get whoever you need.”

Higgins spent the next two days on a steam train to the city of Crucible. The university there would surely provide all of his needs. He arrived late, checked into his room at the boarding house, then hit the first tavern he saw.

It was full of miscreants; some playing cards, others trying to play with the ladies. He seated himself at the bar and raised his hand for a glass. The barkeep walked slowly; he appeared to be favoring one leg over the other. As he approached Higgin’s seat, steam could be seen rising from a hole in his trousers.

“What’s your poison stranger?”

“I’ll have a sarsaparilla ale if you have one.”

“I do.”

The bartender reached underneath his counter and pulled out a chilled mug. Higgins was intrigued by this, and continued the conversation.

“Well that’s nifty. Cold from right under the counter eh?”

The barkeep smirked and snorted.

“University town. Those youngsters come up with all kinds of stuff and want to sell it. Fairly cheap too. This system only cost me two gold and five silver.”

Higgins eyes’ lit up with the low cost.

“And where can I find some of these budding engineers?”

The bartender pointed to a table in the back corner where three young men were seated with a young woman.

“Them right there. They sold it to me cheap, then turned around and bought ale from me for a year straight now. I guess that means they actually paid me for their own product. But my leg here was a might more expensive.”

He slapped the side of his trousers then pulled up his apron to reveal a mechanical leg. Higgins slapped a silver on the counter and headed for the corner table. The barkeep picked up the coin and waved to the youngsters. They nodded in thanks and called for another round as Higgins approached the table.

“Hello young gentlemen, and lady. My name is Wade Higgins, and I represent Mr. Pennytop and the miners from the town of Silver. If you’re interested, I have a task for you. One that promises to be most fulfilling for your careers and your pocketbooks.”

Short Stories – Serials, or One Shots?

Lately I have been writing a lot of short stories.

A few of them are actually good, some not so much.

But we’ve already discussed the importance of getting out the good with the bad.

With thee advent of my stories came another question though:

Am I writing these characters only once, or are they going to come back?

One character I wrote, Mal West is his name, I think will come back. He’s a detective, and there’s always a case. In another one I wrote, the characters name is Hershel Gentry, and he isn’t coming back. Although, he kind of thinks he’s a detective…

Anyway, here’s the bigger question:

Can this short story turn into a lot of short stories?

If it can’t it’s ok. I wouldn’t want some of my stories to be a series. That would be a pretty lame series. But if it can, here are some helpful guidelines.

1. Make your character lovable

I don’t necessarily mean they have to be loved by everybody, but they need to be memorable. If your audience can get into the character, they are definitely going to read more than one story about them. So give your character a quirk, or personality trait, or even a weapon that everyone can distinguish as that character’s.

Example: Superman stands for truth and justice, Monk is a hypochondriac, and King Arthur has a magical sword.

2. Give them an occupation that lends itself to stories

So my character Mal West is a detective. He solves crimes, and there’s never a shortage of crime. So the first one I wrote is a murder case. Next time maybe a theft. After that another murder. But the point is that he can have several stories written about him, and he’s being a detective, but he’s always got a different case.

Example: Batman solves crime from a plethora of villains (Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul)

3. Don’t forget the mood

So in a previous post I talked about how short stories are more about ‘mood’ than anything else. I still hold to this. So when you get a series going, don’t forget the mood. It’s really easy to slip into a cookie cutter story writing mode if the characters are always the same. So be prepared to change the mood from story to story. One could be sad, one could be dark, one could be lighter. Just don’t forget the mood when writing a short story, or it will be just another short story.

What have you been writing? Tell me please. If you’re writing short stories, are they one shots or serials?