Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Flash Fiction Keeps it Fun

I'm really glad I finally made a serious commitment to my writing. It was my birthday gift to myself the year I turned 42--a promise to give it a real go. It has made all the difference--I've finished things, and now I'm even starting to see them published and might make money from it. So, please don't think I'm complaining when I say that sometimes writing is more work than play. 

See, before I was serious about my writing, I wrote only when I felt like it or when I felt like I had time. There was no pressure to finish anything. If I lost interest, I abandoned it and moved on to something else. I didn't work at it; I played. 

Sometimes I miss that playfulness, that toying with an idea and then letting it go. Creating something small that pleases me in the moment and not worrying about whether it ever amounted to anything. 

That, my friends, is why I love flash fiction. 

Flash fiction, for me, is like playing a game. When I do it, generally someone else gives me a prompt--a photo, a line, something. Then, I run with it.  I don't worry much about where I'm going with this. It's like poetry writing has been for me in that it is succinct--about capturing the feeling or moment, not telling the whole story. I try to be creative, subvert it, do something that surprises me and my reader. I have fun.

This is really different than how my other writing ideas develop. Those are usually some nagging voice or scene that just won't leave me alone and pulls at my subconscious until the conscious starts paying attention, too. Those are more like obsessions. Flash fiction, is a passing fancy. 

My favorite flash fiction lately has been on Google+ in the Writers Discussion Group. Some of the moderators, often +Amy Knepper, choose images and post them. Different writers in the group write pieces and members of the community vote for the "best" one by adding +1's. I've written some fun pieces that really please me in these exercises, and I really love reading the variety of pieces that is created each week by the community. 

Here's a link to this week's "contest."  You should play along. It's fun. And here's what I wrote for it this week. I called it Garden Shed

The floor smelled pleasantly of dirt and drying rain. Elmer gathered fistfuls of the damp soil and formed it into balls by spinning it around in his palms like playdough, then crumbled them and let the pieces fall from his fingers. He liked to imagine he was actually forming the chunks with his hands like some kind of elemental warrior.

His aunt was probably going to be angry about how dirty he was getting, but it was worth it. The quiet, darkened garden shed was the only peaceful place he’d found so far. His cousins were friendly and nice enough, but they were noisy and there were just so many of them. Elmer had always been an only child, and he and his mother had lived alone, far away from neighbors and family. He found the whole thing overwhelming.

Even now, he could hear his cousins playing, though he couldn’t see them through the open door. Only a gnarled and knotted tree was visible through the square of soft afternoon light. The tree felt old, but kindly, and Elmer thought it approved of him. The sound of his cousins’ laughter was pleasant in the distance, but Elmer had no desire to join them. He was happy to have some few minutes alone.

When she was better, Elmer would show this garden shed to his mother. She would invent a story for him about how it was really the secret lair of a notorious thief and how no one suspects the treasures hidden within it. No one except for one boy, the special one. (There was always a special one).

It started to rain again then, and Elmer heard his cousins squeal and run. He stayed where he was, watching the rain hit the puddles that quickly formed on the ground outside the door. Some drops were absorbed and others seemed to bounce out and turn back into rain. He was still there when his aunt came looking for him, peering into the shed from beneath a giant umbrella. She smiled at him, and held out a rain jacket.

He put it on, though it made him sad to do so. If it had been his mother coming to fetch him, they would have danced in the warm late summer rain together, laughing into the sky.

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