In the following flash fiction – ‘Natalie’, by Tai Dong Huai – a young character tells the reader about someone she knows, effectively giving a summary character portrait of that other person. This friend, Natalie Bilotto, is, according to one adult, “on the road to disaster” – and she is frequently involved in “misadventures”. Her personality seems to provoke and trigger the narrator, yet also seems to intrigue her and provoke curiosity. Here’s the story:
After reading Huai’s flash fiction, adapt any of the following prompts to fit your novella’s storyline. Write a scene/chapter/story that involves:
• A child or young person who has to play with someone they’re a little bit afraid of. Or an adult who has to spend time with someone they’re a little bit afraid of. What is the (surprising/unexpected) outcome?
• Two characters who are friends but not really friends – “frenemies”, if you will. Explore the power dynamics and tension between them.
• A child or young person witnessing a parent/adult who’s a bird-watcher. (Or vice versa – an adult witnessing a youthful bird-watcher.) Let the bird-watcher’s behaviour seem a little strange…
• Some kind of hideout that’s not particularly effective as a hideout. Why has it been created? What are the consequences of the hideout not being effective?
• A narrative where the main events are triggered by any of the following actions. What happens next?
– flushing something unusual down the toilet;
– cutting off someone’s pony-tail;
– throwing stones at something that deserves to be protected;
– maliciously sticking something sharp onto an ordinary household/office/school object;
– boy scouts sitting round a campfire and pretending to “roast their weenies”;
– taking someone (or something) away in a pickup truck;
– a parent (or step-parent, or adoptive parent) sending a child away to get treatment for “adolescent behavioural disorders”;
• Your main character narrating an anecdote (or confiding in the reader) about an unusual person they know – perhaps someone, following Tai Dong Huai’s flash fiction, who is often involved in “misadventures”. Is their behaviour actually all that bad? What might be its underlying motive or cause? What does the relationship between the two people reveal about the main character?
• If it helps, use any of the following pictures as a way into the material:
Above all, have fun and “make it new”!
More about Michael Loveday’s Novella-in-Flash mentoring: https://novella-in-flash.com/about-the-course/
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