Keep It Short

Every Friday, from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m., Seattle’s non-profit community writing center, Richard Hugo House, sponsors a flash fiction workshop on Twitter. Hugo House sends out a one-word theme and writers submit 140-character stories. Wait. Since each tweet must contain the identifier #FridayFiction, the flash fiction writer has 126 characters to create a world (better count that for me. I write, I don’t math).

Most Fridays I toss a tweet into the #FridayFiction ring. It’s a lark, a puzzle, a chance to stretch my brain and play as I wind down from the work week. It occurred to me recently that these tweets might actually serve as sources for inspiration, that a sentence could become a story. But who saves their tweets? It took an hour or so of scrolling and searching, copying and pasting, to retrace my #FridayFiction tweets back to July 2011, when Hugo House began their weekly flash fiction fest.

My inspiration was borne of desperation. I have written in fits and starts for the past several weeks- since prior to my trip to France – and I have embarked upon a two-month course of study for a wine qualification that will have me holed up with highlighters, textbooks and flash cards until I sit for the exam on May 6. Add in a personal essay as the penultimate assignment for my writing program due in April, and there goes my story writing.

Or not. I turn to the intense and satisfying art of flash fiction, defined loosely as a complete story told in 1,000 words or fewer. Shorter, however, does not mean easier. In a flash fiction story, you take the same elements found in longer-form fiction – setting, character, plot – and build a concise, tight, lean narrative. Each word must have impact. Each phrase must move the story to its conclusion – not necessarily to a resolution – but to a natural and compelling end. I compare it to a sprint workout. You run flat-out – the bursts are short, the mileage is minimal –  but it’s a kick-ass workout that leaves you wrecked AND pumped.

I’m playing around with approaches: I culled a flash fiction piece from a longer story, slicing and dicing away at my words (2578) until I reached the 800-word maximum allowed by the magazine to which I am submitting the story. That hurt — that murdering of my darlings — but I loved the result. I have another 715-word piece I wrote from one of the #FridayFiction tweets below that I’m polishing for hopeful publication.

Here they are, those silly tweets, in random order. In parentheses are the themes Hugo House set forth to guide our #FridayFiction stories. I’ve included those themes I could identify. Otherwise, it’s anybody’s guess the one word that inspired my tweet (I also included some random haiku/twiku because I didn’t want to lose them in the Twitterverse…).

If you’d like to provide me some needed motivation, pick a tweet, tell me why you chose it and I’ll write you a flash fiction story. Promise. 

Mostly #FridayFiction tweets with a few haiku and Word of the Day posts mixed in:

  • Shreds of “War and Peace” drifted across the yard. A note, pinned with an Exacto knife, read “Tolstoy: Drops dripped. Me: Drip dropped.” (Battles) 3:21 PM – 15 Jul 11
  • As he leapt from the balcony, his tail abristle, Stu realized he’d miscounted. Yesterday’s tumble through the dryer was Life #9 (Danger) 3:01 PM – 26 Aug 11
  • Eliza was murdered on Monday. No one, however, thought to tell her. She made it, barely rumpled, to Wednesday morning Rotary. 1/13/12 3:08 PM
  • A gleaming thread of saliva met a velvety strand of ganache, twirling down to pool on the cover of his Weight Watchers cookbook.  (Promises) 3:04 PM – 22 Jul 11
  • With a tentacle, Galay caressed the marble column sinking into a swamp and flicked a scan antennae across the stone. Locus: West Wing (The Future) 5:26 PM – 8 Jul 11
  • November wind poured through the gaping mouths of skeletons half-buried in trench mud. “Germany has surrendered,” they howled. (Victory) 5:57 PM – 2 Mar 12

Fog horns sound at dawn/Blueberry pancakes sweeten/Raindrops on Sunday

  • A mile-high red cloud from deep in the Outback erased vineyards, choked hope. The farmer wiped his face and said goodbye. 7:02 PM – 9 Sep 11
  • Lipstick-red paint smeared his bumper. The wounded Prius glowered in the rain. There was no one around. He considered his options. 3:41 PM – 16 Sep 11
  • The Burgundy poured forth like an October gloaming. Inhaling the aroma of secret forests and autumn roses, she fell in love. (Fall) 3:18 PM – 23 Sep 11
  • “They won’t last the winter.” The pog towered above de Montfort; Montségur was lost in the fog. “God will starve the heretics.”(Resistance) 5:14 PM – 7 Oct 11
  • Unprepared for open water and flailing bodies, she shook in fear. Her lungs clenched. Her bowels roiled. The air horn sounded. 3:03 PM – 11 Nov 11
  • I saved your last voicemail, playing it over and over. One day I mistakenly pressed “7” instead of “9”. You were gone forever. (Grief) 1/27/12 5:26 PM

February comes/Spring’s amanuensis writes/with Winter’s cold ink

  • She’d pressed a Post-It to the bathroom mirror: “You can keep the Sigur Rós.” His reflection couldn’t help but smile. 11/18/11 4:53 PM
  • With a term paper due in two hours, she scrolled through web entries for Othello. “Jackpot.” Her fingers pressed ‘Control, C’. 12/2/11 3:57 PM
  • “Grift?” drawled the politician otherwise known as ‘The Chameleon.’ “Oh no, your Honor, that was a donation to our agency.” 12/16/11 4:39 PM
  • Her limerence propelled her backstage. She skirted security, found his dressing room door and turned the handle.  5:11 AM – 13 Feb 12
  • He stood in her Odense kitchen, thick with the sweet camphor of cardamom.They held hands across a shaft of sun. Then he woke. 1/6/12 6:02 PM

Corpses of snowmen/Into Winter’s green grass melt/Memories of storms 1/26/12 5:14 AM

  • The trapped jury recoiled from the reek of his lunch hour Manhattans as he belched out his pot-valiant closing argument. 2/9/12 8:38 AM
  • Snow bound my body like plaster; even my eyelids were shut fast. Inside the avalanche, the sound of my breath was deafening. (Survive) 5:27 PM – 16 Mar 12
  • The agent stamped the Permanent Resident visa glued to the end page of my passport. “Welcome to New Zealand.” My heart soared. 12/30/11 4:58 PM
  • His broad strokes obliterated the masterpiece. The art thief then smoothed the palimpsest as Vermeer shrieked from his grave. (Goodbye) 6:03 PM – 9 Mar 12
  • They watched as the couple descended the Spanish Steps, hand in hand, as ancient as Rome. Matteo turned away; his wife sighed. 2/10/12 4:56 PM

Blinds drawn, dark silence/I wonder, rain or dry ground/Pre-dawn mystery 6:31 AM – 29 Oct 11

One thought on “Keep It Short

  1. Pingback: Friday Flash Fiction (on Friday, Even!) « shanjeniah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.