I recently wrote a flash fiction story with a self-imposed limit of 100 words. Typically, my flash fiction (in this case, micro-fiction) is carried by action and dialog, allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. However, sometimes too many blanks lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Improving character development and imagery can help. This is one of my newest goals for micro-fiction. It hasn’t been easy. Cutting parts of the story that, in my mind, takes it from beginning to end seems to change or even ruin it.
After several edits, I decided that my 100-word story, “Saving Her,” * just couldn’t be told in 100 words. Maybe it needed 250 words, 500, or even closer to 1000 words.
What is your life like?
I needed to give my story the added flavor and texture that it lacked as a 100-word micro with details I didn’t know yet. So, I went right to the source… my main character. Yes, she is fictional, but she lives in my story and is the expert in her world. I wanted to see her, see what she saw, and understand her physical and emotional reactions. So, I asked her a few questions.
Likening this process to an interview, I wrote several questions and then read each one aloud. As I typed my MC’s answers, I felt as though she spoke through my fingers. She told me what it was like to be in her situation; she described what she saw and how it felt to be there, the smells and the sounds. Then I took her answers and applied them to my story.
With the same basic plot, my story felt so different. My main character’s revelations added so much. Not every detail made it into the final version of this story, but it opened up the possibility of a follow-up or prequel.
Interview vs. Character Study
Similar to a character study, the interview technique worked well for this story as it will for my next one. For longer short stories and novels/novellas, I intend to set up interviews with every important character. Come to think of it, I’m sure the minor characters have plenty to say as well.
*”Saving Her” was the working title for this story. The final, “Alley Trash,” is a short 387 words.