Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Guide to Writing Awesome Flash Fiction In Ten Awesome Steps

1. Look at a piece of flash fiction. Do not read it, just look at it. It may be anywhere from 6 to 999 words long. Decide that anything that short must be supereasy to write because if it takes years and years and years to write a novel, it probably takes 17.5 seconds to write flash fiction. Decide to write some flash fiction the next time you have 17.5 seconds to spare.

2. After discovering that some American publications pay for flash fiction, decide to embark on a lucrative career writing flash fiction for lots of American money. Believe you can do this because many people have complimented you on your spoken English skills. Picture yourself getting millions of dollars and an Oscar for your writing. In the glow of your imminent awesomeness, write something and call it flash fiction. Tell yourself it is ok that you finished it in less than 17.5 seconds because people with good spoken English skills tend to write faster than others.

3. The next day, look at your flash fiction piece. Do not be appalled by the fact that it is complete garbage. Do remind yourself that this is flash fiction so someone has to pay you American money for it. Add words like ‘therefore’ and ‘because’ to it so that the piece makes a little more sense but not too much sense. Add exclamation marks to make it dramatic. Add words like ‘vermillion’ and ‘coconut’ to give it an exotic Indian air which you feel will be a sure hit with the Americans.

4. Send your work to numerous publications without reading their submission guidelines or what they actually publish. Bristle with bright and audaciously ferocious hope. Feel this hope quietly cough and die as you start to receive a steady stream of rejections in just a few hours. Think of the phrase ‘my heart sank’ and realize that you can actually feel this happen each time you get a rejection. Realize that even after you get used to the rejections, your heart still sinks each time you get one. Feel your heart sink again and again and again.

5. When you can no longer keep track of how many rejections you have received, read your flash fiction piece slowly to yourself. Read it many times so that it soaks deep into your memory and never goes away. Realize that not only is the piece complete garbage, you knew it was complete garbage all along. Resolve never to write flash fiction again.

6. Spend the next few months having recurring nightmares that you are being chased by angry Americans who claim your flash fiction gave them cancer. Try to cope with your subsequent fear of sleep by reading all the magazines that rejected you. Read their archives. Read anything and everything you can find that is connected to flash fiction. Read impassioned arguments from people who believe flash fiction is awesome and from people who believe flash fiction is killing literature. Read tweet fiction, nanofiction, drabbles, ficlets, minisagas, fables, microfiction, 69ers, 55ers, prose poetry, vignettes, experimental, horror, surreal, cyberpunk, irreal, mainstream, bizarro, new weird, multimedia, western, steampunk, erotic, zombie and really bad flash fiction. Read flash fiction with plots, with no plots, with one character, with no characters and flash fiction that says it isn’t flash fiction. Read poetry. Read lots and lots of poetry.

7. Read sign boards, magazine ads, newspaper articles and dialogue from plays. Discover that words can be rearranged or removed and this can change everything. Rearrange and remove words from famous poems. Read folktales, lists, anecdotes, jokes, lies, feghoots, spam, love letters, Nigerian fraud emails, frame stories and technical manuals. Listen to how people talk. Listen to the spaces between their words. Describe these spaces in your head. Describe them in ten different ways using different sets of words each time.

8. Talk incessantly about flash fiction to your friends. Watch these friends leave you because all you ever talk about is flash fiction. Talk to your fish about flash fiction. Talk to strangers about flash fiction. Talk to yourself about flash fiction.

9. One day, your best friend or lover will become very dramatic and leave you. They will say things like ‘I’m letting go? You’re not even trying to hold on!’ Visualize the act of letting go of something that isn’t holding on. Look at and listen to all the things they are saying to you by not saying anything. Think of all the words and spaces that have led up to this moment. After they leave, find a piece of paper and a pencil.

10. You are now ready to write a piece of flash fiction.

this article appeared in Deccan Herald's Sunday Herald, March 21, 2010


Ethel Rohan said...


Australopithecus said...

does one need flash player to read flash fiction.

I always thought flash fiction sounded like something those dirty chaps in dirtier raincoats/overcoats do to unsuspecting "leddis log" all around the world.

kuzhali manickavel said...

hi ethel, thanks very much for reading and saying brava :)

hi australopithecus, thanks for stopping by. i think those kind of flashers sometimes flash unsuspecting dudes as well

soin said...

me thinks this is how dr.vijay joesph stalin comes up with his brilliant

kuzhali manickavel said...

could be, could be

Tania Hershman said...

I echo Ethel. This is fantastic, and very very wise. I shall pass it around.

Jarred McGinnis said...

Great post.

What's the best one word story you can think of? Here's mine:


Kirsty Logan said...

I feel that you must, at some point, write something which does not make me think 'yes, this is exactly what I know is true and yet I cannot say it so succinctly and wonderfully'. But that hasn't happened yet.

kuzhali manickavel said...

@ tania and kirsty- thanks very much for reading and saying nice things :)

@ jarred- thank you also for reading. your one-word story is very intriguing and exotic. here's mine.


i feel it has a lot of dramatic sentiment and scares the reader on some level also.

A. S. Patric said...

Great article. (I confess to having used the word 'vermillion,' though thankfully, never 'coconut')

I also liked your story in Going Down Swinging #28. One of my favourite lines from that would make a wonderful sentence story actually. "He looked at the braid that hung down his daughter's back like a dead snake.' Brilliant. (I was in #28 as well, with a story called UnSubstance)

The collection looks great. I'll have to hunt down a copy.

Anonymous said...

This is such lovely awesomeness. I also ended up wondering what minisa-gas was but then I was like, oh and I figured it out and everything was ok.

kuzhali manickavel said...

@ a.s. patric- thanks very much for reading and the kind words, nice to meet a fellow GDS contributor :) i hope you can find my collection and i hope you buy many copies

@ anonymous- thank you for reading and nice words. minisa-gas could be so many things, no?

Neena Sharma said...

Have become a huge fans since I read Little Bones just a few days back. Ever since I've been downloading your stories like there's no tomorrow. Loved your post about flash fiction. But while that might be about what not to, why not post something about what to DO? Looking forward to it!

kuzhali manickavel said...

hai neena, thanks very much, appreciate you stopping by and reading :)


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