One of my favourite writers of flash fiction is Jonathan Cardew – over and over again, his stories are inventive and surprising, often in remarkable ways.
Have a read of this flash by Cardew, published in Passages North:
What do you notice happening in it?
Of course, there’s the very strangeness of the scenario – it’s both macabre and surreal. Flash fiction is a good vehicle for that combination of gruesome weirdness and absurdity. Another notable feature is the sheer quality of the detail, the sentence-making itself. The language is conversational – we imagine a voice speaking, and yet it’s expressed with precision, invention, and relish. Lastly I’m struck by the move towards an unusual image at the end – taking the story in a completely new and unexpected direction (how did we get to hippos??) , and creating an unresolved, resonant quality by deliberately juxtaposing and not explaining. For a moment, we’re really there on the savannah (on a “blisteringly gorgeous day” – a lovely touch).
Invitation: Write a new flash fiction, made relevant to your novella’s story situation, in which:
• Something gruesome, macabre, or strange happens, yet the narrator considers it entirely normal or routine (OPTIONAL: let them explain their unconvincing justification for it).
• Someone is conserving or setting something aside for future benefit (it doesn’t have to be surreal or macabre). What’s their motive?
• Someone alters their physical appearance for a particular purpose or ulterior motive. (This could relate to their clothing, jewellery, tattoos, make-up, or hairstyle, for instance). What’s the expected benefit and does it pay off for the protagonist?
• Two people conspire in an activity that contravenes a perceived “norm” (whether a formal law or a social code, tradition or expectation). What’s at stake? What are the consequences?
• Identify and isolate some other ingredient of this story (one that you admire or are interested in), and transpose this aspect into your novella’s story situation, making it entirely new in the process, by thinking laterally.
OPTIONAL: For any of the above, end the story by moving towards an image (a metaphor, simile or comparison) that is unexpected yet apt. Don’t explain or spell out the relevance. Expand into description of physical details. Let the image and its sensations linger in the reader’s mind.