People write Flash Fiction either as a timed piece – you’re given a set time and you try to write a story within it – or to a prompt – you’re given a title/picture/object/opening line and you write what it suggests.
Flash Fiction is growing in popularity, and there are numerous competitions for it on the internet each week. The prizes are pretty good too, considering… the Write Invite contest on a Saturday night nets its winner £20. Not enough to retire on certainly, but for twenty minutes work it’s a very good return.
I’ve found Flash Fiction helpful in two main ways. Firstly, it gets the juices flowing – it’s like a warm up exercise, especially if you’ve had a time of not writing. Something that’s short and sweet and doesn’t matter if it leads nowhere.
However, the second way it helps is that, for me at least, it usually does lead somewhere. It always gets my imagination stretched, which means I am ready to take on the next part of my current big project. But nine times out of ten, it wakes the ideas department up as well. I’ll read back something that could be complete in and of itself and think, “There’s a play/novel in there.” It’s a great starting point.
At one of the Tunbridge Wells and District Writers’ Circle workshops I was given a bottle with a message inside it and this is what I wrote:
Daddies Always Are.
“Ye’re wasting your time. Ye’ll no have it, so ye can just go away!”
I stare at her, blankly. I have no idea what “it” is. “I’m looking for Annabel Flett,” I say.
That stops her, mid-tirade. “Annabel Flett? Nobody’s called me that in sixty years.” Her eyes narrow. “Who are ye?”
I hold up the vintage castor oil bottle, three tiny shells rattling at its bottom. “I found this.”
Her rheumy eyes widen. She holds out arthritis shaped fingers and I hand her the note, paper creased and sun yellowed, the ink, once black, now silver grey.
“Where’d ye get this?”
“Beachy Head. Near Eastbourne, on the south coast.”
She nods. “Long way from Shetland.” She caresses the message. “I was six when I wrote it. My daddy helped.” She sighs, momentarily lost in her memories. “1931. A couple of apocalypses ago. Life was simpler then. Didn’t have… them trying to take my land. I told ‘em. I was born here. I’ve lived here ninety years. And I will die here. Why would anyone want to build thirty houses here anyway?”
“You’re being harassed?”
“Aye.” Her eyes narrow. “Why?”
I grin. “Perhaps I can help. I’m a lawyer.”
There’s a reason for everything. I was planning a Spanish holiday until I walked on that beach and found a call to the north instead.
Annabel chuckles. “Daddy said someone would answer my letter if I put it in the sea. Looks like he was right.”
“Daddies always are,” I answer.