Jaan’s short story Elk City, has just been published on Work Literary Magazine.
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Elk City is a semi-fictional account of a trip to an isolated Idaho town by a group of hippie tree planters, and the relationship they set up with the townsfolk.
A group of old timers and a bunch of kids sat around the campfire. A couple of fresh logs were tossed on, sending a rush of sparks up to the sky. Robbie Richards pushed back his grey hair, and stretched his long boots towards the fire. Someone handed him a fresh bottle of Black Butte Porter, and he took a swig. The others, young and old turned towards him as he began his story:
Dusk was settin’ in and the rain was pourin’ down like there was no tomorrow as Tim Boty and me turned onto route 14 outa Grangeville and headed toward Elk City in spring of ‘76. Tim was driving his dusty old green Saab 96. That thing had more creaks and rattles in it than an old horse buggy, but she ran just fine. Man it was comin’ down!
I began to produce these ultra-short stories – sawn-off tales, as I call them – when I was commuting from Manchester to Liverpool…
These stories, small as they were, had a huge appetite; little fat monsters that gobbled up ideas like chicken nuggets. The habit of reducing text could get out of hand too; I once took away the last two sentences of a story and realised I had reduced it to a blank page.
How to write flash fiction
1. Start in the middle.
You don’t have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character.
Being a writer – or other artist for that matter – is a bit like being a boxer. If you think you are going to get into the ring and are not ready to take a few punches then you should not be there.
Not only is it unrealistic, but you do your audience a disservice if you are not willing to take criticism.
We are a sensitive lot and it is painful to see our babies criticized, but it is necessary if we wish to grow and improve our craft to take valid, well meant criticism.
You do not necessarily have to agree with everything, but it is important to listen and evaluate. In the end it is your name on the piece not your editor’s or other critic’s. So you need to be true to yourself, but not closed off.
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, 1946 English essayist, novelist, & satirist (1903 – 1950)