Novella-in-Flash Writing Prompt #4

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:

https://www.passagesnorth.com/passagesnorthcom/2021/10/22/supernumerary-by-jonathan-cardew

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).

OR:

• Someone is conserving or setting something aside for future benefit (it doesn’t have to be surreal or macabre). What’s their motive?

OR:

• 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?

OR:

• 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?

OR:

• 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.

Novella-in-Flash Writing Prompt #3

Have a read of this story, ‘Cimarron’, by Natalie Teal McAllister, published at the excellent online journal Pidgeonholes.

http://pidgeonholes.com/2021/10/cimarron/

Then write a story for your Novella-in-Flash in which:

  • a long-awaited change in the weather affects how characters behave, what they can do, or how they feel.

OR

  • there’s a contrast between one protagonist’s parent and another character’s parent (as here, between two different fathers) – they behave differently, have different values, or there’s some other kind of friction or tension between these two representations of parenthood, which is noticed by a protagonist or narrator.

OR

  • there’s an exploration of contrasting experience between genders (for example, as happens here, a female narrator observing a male character, or otherwise another gender contrast).

OR

  • a community of people (any kind of social group) is prompted, cajoled, inspired to act collectively in response to an event or a change

OR

  • a character is actively interacting with the landscape or physical environment (for example, as happens here, a character wading into a river, catching fish)

OR

  • identify some other ingredient or tactic in the story that you connect with or admire. Transplant it into the context of your own novella. Write a flash fiction using some twist or variation upon this particular element. Make it new.

http://pidgeonholes.com/2021/10/cimarron/

Novella-in-Flash Writing Prompt #2

Here’s a story by Juliana Lamy, published at Pidgeonholes magazine.

http://pidgeonholes.com/2021/01/sylpha/

Have a read, then…

  • Write a chapter about a character yearning passionately/desperately for something – some kind of yearning that’s a “big, wild thing”

OR

  • Write a chapter in which a narrative event is prefigured in a night-time dream

OR

  • In this story the main character Sylpha has a baby. Write a chapter in which a character makes something else/brings something else into the world, or wants to do so.

OR

  • This story refers to twins (three sets of twins in fact!) Write a chapter featuring two of something – a pairing, or a doubling, or a mirroring. Think beyond human twins – for example, consider objects, animals, features of the natural or human-made landscape, events/actions, etc

OR

  • Draw some other kind of inspiration from the example story and use this as a springboard for your own writing.

As always, with such prompts: “Make it new.” (Ezra Pound)

http://pidgeonholes.com/2021/01/sylpha/

Novella-in-Flash Writing Prompt #1

I love how the following story (at Pithead Chapel) by Kyra Kondis suggests a whole story-world in a compressed space, through the use of vivid, specific details. (A novel might be constructed from these beginnings!) The title too is neat – offering more than we might take from it at first glance. Taking this story as a springboard, why not write a scene/chapter for your novella in which…

  • a character gets involved in an affair (as revenge?)
  • OR: a character is propelled towards risky behaviour (of some kind) after experiencing a loss
  • OR: a character does something “wrong” but feels justified or has fair motive (you decide the justification/motive)
  • OR: a character checks someone else’s text messages or some otherwise confidential or private information (you decide the reason why – and what they find when they do)
  • OR: the story is split into a three-part “montage”, set at different times (use past/present/future as you see fit, and consider focusing on three primary characters)
  • OR: find some other angle that you unearth from the example

Here’s the story itself: