The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Itchin’ for some Fiction pt. 5– Fiction Bites Back

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Few things will help you learn how to do something like teaching it will. I realized this my first semester– hell, my first week– as a teacher. If you don’t know how to do it, you can’t teach it. And if you know only how to do it, then your students most likely are only ever going to do it like you do. So you’ve got to have a pretty deep understanding of most anything you teach. That means knowing without a doubt the fundamentals of what you’re going to teach; the building blocks.
I was thinking about that yesterday as I got to thinking about the first draft of a piece of flash fiction I just finished (flash fiction refers to short stories 1500 words and below, though 1500 is not a fixed number). We’ve been taking a long look at flash fiction for about a week now in one of my creative writing classes, and have read a handful by a few short story masters (Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov, Ray Bradbury). We’ve also been referencing some guidelines layed out by Roberta Allen in Fast Fiction. That has helped us identify a few fundamentals, such as identifying the type of story we’re dealing with (Allen posits that there are basically 4 types of flash fiction: single incidents, stories that reveal a mind, stories that compress time, and stories that defy ordinary reality). We also decided that surprise endings were preferable (also covered by Allen). Of our own accord, we recognized setting as acting symbolically, and usually other strong symbols at work.

I guess we created a template or formula from which to work. I do the same thing when teaching basic writing to students, so it’s nothing new (something like the 5-paragraph essay is a template). But then I used the template myself and liked what I came up with. I have a single incident (with a very brief flashback), a surprise ending, and a strong central symbol (along with at least 3 sub-symbols). I like how they work to tell the story for me. Since it’s flash fiction, they seem to be swinging the bat extra hard. As I’ve said before (Itchin’ for some Fiction pt. 1), I’m a stranger to using symbolism in my prose. I guess I’m not a stranger now so much as a neophyte.

I’m waiting for some workshop feedback from LakeSideInk and to find the time to do at least another draft, and then I think I’ll post the story here. I’d mention it by name, but it doesn’t have a name… yet.

I guess I’m getting a lot of mileage out of the short forms (or super-short forms, in this case). I like their shorter and easier to manipulate, which helps as I work on my fiction chops. It’s also putting me in a mind to keep working on short pieces of creative nonfiction.

Written by seeker70

April 10, 2010 at 2:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] to promote Imitation Fruit.  I talk about some of the writing process for the story last April in Itchin’ for some Fiction part 5;  I didn’t mention the story by name because I hadn’t thought of one […]

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