Carving And Crafting

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Well, all I can say is the last two weeks have really kicked my ass.

Even still, in the midst of all this, moving forward is the only option. Oh, I know I could probably lie down and not get up, but my Momma raised me better than that, and I have a grandbaby on the way. What would he think of a Noni that is prostrate on the floor, or weeping and gnashing her teeth? I can do better. I will do better, even if it’s just one little step.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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Let’s talk about structure and format of a flash fiction story.

Once upon a time, I was part of a wonderful workshop administered by Pam Castro. If you’re at all serious about writing flash fiction, Pam provides fabulous resources and an outstanding training ground, highly recommended. I learned a lot, and the insightful critiques of my fellow flashers were invaluable. One critique, in particular, stands out in my mind. In it, the ‘critter’ remarked on how he loved the appearance of the story on the page, how it added to the atmosphere of the tale I was telling.

When I write flash fiction, I pay attention to structure and formatting. It’s important to have a good story, but it’s also important how it appears on the page. Your sentence structure and formatting are also tools to use when crafting your flash masterpiece, much like they are in poetry.

For instance, take this passage from “In The Blue”, a story I wrote in 2004:

My eyes are blue. My socks are blue, too. I have a blue bedroom and I like blues music. My bruises are black and blue. Sometimes I wonder if everything just looks blue to me because I have lost my mind.

There you have it. A block of prose – like a brick. Let’s carve that sucker up, what do you think?

My eyes are blue.

My socks are blue, too. I have a blue bedroom and I like blues music.

My bruises are black and blue.

Sometimes I wonder if everything just looks blue to me because I have lost my mind.

The flow of the story is very different in the second example. The structure of the sentences invites the reader to pause in all the right places, to get the feeling of this person – just by the spacing and positioning of the words and sentences. It mimics the thought process, adding weight to the “voice.”

Keep this in mind when putting together your flash fiction piece. Sometimes the position of a single word, or sentence, can add a dimension to your story with a deft and subtle touch that can be very powerful. Play with your words; stack them up then tumble them down. Juggle them like a circus act – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Do you have any examples to share of your own work, or the work of a favored author whom you feel employs the same technique? Please share in the comments section, and thanks for stopping by.

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7 thoughts on “Carving And Crafting

  1. You know, I do that all the time myself, but I never thought about “how” it looks on a page. I always did for how it sounded and in helping the reader break it up, almost forcing little pauses.

    But now, you’ve given me something else to think about.

    lalas last blog post..Mural and Sidewalk Series—#2

  2. lala, i didn’t realize that’s what i was doing either, until this critter pointed it out to me. with several stories, actually, and then i began you paying attention. i think it’s a great tool.

    there’s more to it, fay (may i call you fay? ;)) i think you DO see it, even if it’s subliminal. i think it contributes to the whole message or feel of the piece. think of stephen king — he does it a lot in his work. (it’s so good to see you here!)

    heh, John. someday i may post “In The Blue”. and they say you can’t lose what you never had. 😛

    thanks, guys.

  3. it is most difficult, reenie. people underestimate it because of its brevity, but that’s the biggest challenge.

    i saw your post, and i am very familiar with the Ernest Hemingway six-word story you mentioned.

    “For sale; baby shoes, never worn.”

    to me, there’s a wealth of story in what he didn’t say. the answers he did NOT provide. why is he selling baby shoes? why were they never worn? it implies some tragedy, that something Very Bad happened.

    or, you can turn it and say, did someone buy a pair of shoes in the wrong size? it depends on how you look at it, and to me, that’s the artistry and the attraction of flash.

    thanks for stopping by!

    🙂

    nettas last blog post..Carving And Crafting

  4. i’ve probably approached this from a personal point of view (is there really any other way?), but i always read the “baby shoes” flash as spoken softly by an older man who had dreamed of being a father since he was young, since the time he saw a cute pair of baby shoes and bought them in hope for the future… but then never quite found the right ladyfriend connection to enable their use. 🙂

    so few words, but so many stories. 🙂

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