It’s about writing flash fiction, geared to erotica but good points for anyone writing a story in 250 words.
Writing Erotic Flash FictionYou’ve seen these little powerhouses of narrative everywhere. Short little stories (1000 words is almost too long) that convey a powerful story while implying an entire novel’s worth of story, characterization, and conflict. The flash fiction (or short-short story) market is gaining in popularity, as editors can pack in more variety with each anthology or zine they publish.
By T. Myer
But how do you crack this market? Anyone who has tried to write a piece of flash fiction (erotic or not) quickly realizes how difficult it is to build a good story in so little acreage. Here are some tips for getting off on the right foot.
1. Start strong. Flash fiction in many respects is like advertising copywriting. Without a strong headline and lead sentence, there’s no way anyone will pay attention to it. Same with flash fiction. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
· Dialogue. An excellent beginning, especially if we are thrust into a conversation halfway through it, as though we’d just entered the room where two people are talking. This draws us in, makes us want to read on to figure out what’s happening.
· Description. More than other prose forms, flash fiction attracts a lot of poetic diction. Many flash fiction pieces can sustain lyrical prose because of its brevity. An effective beginning for an erotic piece is to describe in depth one of the character’s physical characteristics. This will lead you to other discoveries.
· Metaphor. Again, flash fiction can sustain higher levels of metaphor, analogy, and allegory than other prose forms because they’re so short. Readers will forgive–even enjoy–the tangents you take. Beware, though: if you have something allegorical to say, don’t dawdle. Economy of words is everything.
2. Forget plot. Let your characters and situations take their natural course. Especially if the piece you are writing has to be 100 or 200 words. Don’t cranialize the experience, get it out on paper. The best way to approach this kind of writing is to get the hell out of the way of the first draft. You’ll have plenty of time later to edit and shape. With just two or three characters, a situation, and 300 words, you’ll have no trouble at all getting the words out.
3. Imply as much as you can. Every word, every action, every sentence should imply way more than it actually says or expresses. If your two characters are divorced, try not to say this outright. Show us, show us, show us. Their words and actions around each other will tell us not only if they are divorced, but whether it was amicable, painful, etc.
4. Think tone. Flash fiction pieces are about tone, not just form. They are more like poems than prose in this way. Although flash fiction pieces can take many forms (letter, diary entry, vignette, slice of life, anecdote, joke) it’s their tone that sets them apart as a literary form.
What is tone? I can take the easy way out and say “You’ll know it when you see it,” but I won’t. Tone is what underlies any of your writing. An emotion or edge. Maybe the entire tone of the story is hurried and paranoid, but the characters themselves are placid. This sets up a nice conflict. Or maybe the tone is comic, although the matter is tragic.
Tone is painted with diction, rhythm, and syntax. Most prose writers find these fields hard to master. Take a poetry class or write some poetry that doesn’t rhyme. Paint a picture with word choices, word phrases, word arrangements. A delicious conflict arises when one character tra-la-la’s while another feels like a dead anvil sitting in the middle of the page.
5. Conflict and contrast. I’ve said it a number of times, but it bears saying again. Always throw yourself into the path of conflict. The conflict can be physical, emotional, spiritual, internal, external, whatever. Same goes with contrast–the bolder, the better.
6. Twist the hook at the end. You open with a hook to reel in the reader. By the end, you need to twist that hook in the reader’s mouth. Because the form is so brief, the twist will be no more than a paragraph, and is usually just a sentence or phrase.
The hook at the end is what will make your flash fiction totally unforgettable. It can literally seal the memory of it in the vaults of your reader’s mind. But don’t overdo it. Sometimes a quarter turn of the hook is enough.
7. Forget everything I told you. Someone will come around and break all these rules, and that’s fine. This form is ripe for harvesting unusual fruit. Just write and see what happens. I think you’ll find the form very gratifying.
Editing Advice Now that you’ve got a first draft down, more than likely you have too many words, either for your own liking or for the editor’s. Here’s how you can knock down the word count.
1. Murder all adverbs. Keep the emphasis on the nouns and verbs. Instead of saying “he ran quickly” say, “he sprinted.” You just saved 1 word.
2. Likewise with redundancies. Instead of saying things like “she moaned with pleasure” say “she moaned.” We’ll figure out from the context that it was pleasurable. Double kudos to you if the piece becomes a little more ambiguous (maybe she moans from pain? despair? fright?) because of the edit.
3. If a word doesn’t add to tone, conflict, or the upcoming hook-twisting, then flush it. There’s no room for excess baggage in this genre. Every word must lead to the conclusion, even in a roundabout way.
Several online erotica sites publish flash fiction, including Amoret (http://www.amoretonline.com), Mind Caviar (http://www.mindcaviar.com), and Clean Sheets (http://www.cleansheets.com).