Interview with Dyane Forde, Flash Fiction author
Interview with Dyane Forde, Flash Fiction Author
Flash fiction has enjoyed a recent boost in popularity. Dyane Forde, author of fantasy trilogy “The Purple Morrow” has embraced the style and has written a rich collection of these uber-short stories. Read them on her blog droppedpebbles.wordpress.com.
As a writer of flash fiction, how would you define this writing form?
To me, FF is a pared down story that packs a wallop. It’s a complete story distilled to essential parts in a limited number of words. However, this doesn’t mean it’s boring or incomplete. They often have surprise endings, make you think, or outright shock you. They sometimes go places where other stories to do not. In my article Flash Fiction: My New Passion, I likened them to the Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits of short story writing.
How is the narrative structure different for flash fiction than for a customary-length short story?
The most obvious difference is word limit. There doesn’t seem to be a firm limit on what is considered flash fiction, though I have heard that generally stories of less than 1000 words is accepted. The main thing, especially for very short FF, is that these stories tend to focus on one moment in time; one conflict and its resolution.
Also, because of the word limit, each word and sentence is maximised in order to communicate the most information and achieve the most effect. There’s no time for deep character development, back-story, descriptions, etc. They often feature a twist or surprise ending, and some endings are quite abrupt. It’s not unusual to reach the end and say, ‘Whoa! I was not expecting that!’
One thing people may like (or not) is that a lot of questions are left unanswered, requiring the reader to fill in the blanks. I have read a few where I came to the end and thought, ‘WTH? Where did that come from?’ I either had to accept it as is or reread to see if I missed a clue or two.
What did you find difficult about flash fiction when you first started writing in this format? What did you find easy?
It was hard to come up with ideas. When you’re used to writing full-length stories and books, trying to even figure out how to tell a story in so few words seems impossible. Using writing prompts like, ‘You meet and old enemy on a train. What do you do?’ or ‘You wake up in a tight space and realize you’re on a ship flying through space. What do you do?’ really help because the prompts focus your ideas on the crux of the story.
Then comes the actual writing. This required a ‘paradigm shift’. In a way, I had to reconceptualise what constituted a story. What are the essential elements that must be told? What can be left out without harming the story?
After that came the usual questions: Who is involved, what do they want and why? What’s the main conflict? How does it end? Lastly, the task of learning to be concise. Deleting unnecessary words, rephrasing, and finding better words to say what I wanted was key. My background in poetry came in handy here. After a while, this became easier.
In your flash fiction, you compose a narrative that has a strong resolution, but also leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination. How do you achieve this balance?
Again, I think it goes back to distilling the story to its basic parts, discerning what is essential to be told for the sake of comprehension while leaving behind the rest. What happens to the character is more important than why or how. Those can be inferred, and I think at times that’s more exciting and fun for the reader to fill in anyhow. That is, as long as the writer gives enough information or hints so the reader can come up with their own answers.
Still, I don’t have a solid ‘how to’ for this question. I think it’s just practice, practice, practice and seeing what kind of reaction you get from those who read your story. If you need to, go back to the drawing board and rewrite.
What advice would you give to writers who are trying this form of narrative for the first time?
Read other FF as well as tutorials and articles if you need specifics, and use prompts to get you started. Then practice.
So, idea-generation is hard. What do you use to kick-start your stories? What are your experiences in flash fiction writing?