Flight Blog Tour: How To Write Contest-Winning Flash Fiction – by Aidee Ladnier
This is a first for the blog – a judge from a writing contest. Aides Ladnier is here today to talk about how to write contest-winning flash fiction. And she would know a thing or two about this as her story came in 3rd out of 117 stories in Queer Sci-fi’s 2015 flash fiction contest. So please welcome Aidee and then go find out more about the book. The proceeds go to support the Queer Sci-fi site and help give a voice to LGBTQA authors.
How to Write Contest Winning Flash Fiction; by Aidee Ladnier
To my great delight, one of the prizes for placing third in the QSF 2nd Annual Flash Fiction Contest was a chance to judge the entries for the 3rd Annual Flash Fiction Contest. It was tons of fun reading all the entries and took more time than I would have thought, since each of the stories were only 300 words.
Make no mistake—writing a 300-word piece of flash fiction is as much an art as writing a 300-page novel. When you have word restrictions, your writing tends to be more spare. Your concepts become visceral and simple, akin to basic necessities. I love the challenge of flash fiction. I’ve written stories ranging from 1500 words to 200. And I have to admit, it can be frustrating trying to fit a complex story idea into a tiny tale. But good flash fiction reaches right to the heart of the matter, succinctly and with a fist clutching at your throat. A lot of writers think that flash fiction is just a snippet or a scene. Sure, you can fit that into a small word count and it might be relevant. This is easy to do when you’re writing about characters that already exist in a longer piece. But really good flash fiction stands on its own as a whole story, complete in itself. All the elements of a longer novel are in flash fiction: genre, setting, characterization, dialogue, theme—it’s just compacted down into a bit-sized shock of prose.
So I’ve compiled a list of tips in case you’d like to write some of your own contest-winning flash fiction:
- You need a rock solid beginning. A beginning has to establish a sympathetic character, setting, and conflict. This should all take place in the first paragraph or paragraphs.
- Characters must be passionate about something. Often, my best stories present an object or idea that my character wants in the first few lines only to reveal later in the story what they truly, passionately need.
- All stories short or long must have conflict. Something very real must stand in your character’s way. It is easiest to choose something concrete that the character has to face but existential crisis is also effective.
- Your conflict should get worse.Just like in a novel, you have to raise the stakes in a flash fiction story. Due to the short nature of the form, raising the stakes in flash fiction can be encapsulated in just one sentence or one paragraph. Readers want characters to earn their ending.
- In order to be memorable, include a reverse that takes your reader’s breath away. My flash fiction is often based on the same structure as a joke–Setup then Punchline. The beginning and middle of the story is the setup, but then a twist occurs, giving the ending a punch. The ending will show the reader that what they perceived in the first part was either erroneous or did not explain fully the environment of the story.
- And most importantly—trust your audience. I took a class with Holly Lisle (a world-class flash fiction writer) who emphasized that in all good reading experiences, there is a bond between the reader and the writer. This is especially true of flash fiction. There are so few words in this type of fiction that it is essential to cut out every extraneous piece of narration, pare down characterization to the nub, and only hint at the theme of your story. You, the author, must know and trust your reader to remember the details from earlier in the story, realize what your story is saying, and understand the meaning behind the ending of the story.
So there you have it. You now have the tools to write a great story in just a few words. I hope you’ll enter it in the 4th Annual Flash Fiction Contest!
A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.
Queer Sci Fi’s Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. “Flight” leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.
Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover & Illustrations Artist: Mila May
Release Date: General release 9/21/16
Price: $4.99 eBook, $12.99 print b/w*, TBD print color*
*Book contains 5 illustrations inside.
Smoke, by Zev de Valera
He rubbed his temples and squinted at the soft light of his surroundings through the fans of his thick eyelashes. The last drink had been a mistake.
Was that a shaker he’d felt, or the onset of a hangover?
He clutched a silken pillow and waited.
Suddenly, he felt his home tremble; a few pieces of glass
and ceramic ware teetered and then fell to their demise.
Shit. This is the real thing.
With an effort, he hauled himself from his bed.
How many years had it been since the last one?
The shaking ceased, and he looked around his small dwelling. A model unit when he’d purchased it. Now filled with the result of years of collecting: a gramophone, a first generation television set, a water clock. And much more. All of it all had sentimental value—as did the photos of the various men that sat atop or alongside the items in his collection. Some of these men had loved him. All of them had once owned him. Now he owned their memories. That was the bargain.
Another shake. Followed by several unnerving tilts. He willed his cherished possessions to remain in place and willed himself into sobriety and a more becoming appearance as he prepared himself for work.
What to wear?
He selected a red brocade tunic and pants. A classic look always worked best for the initial consultation.
A resounding thud.
He peered up into the small shaftway at the center of the ceiling.
Then a small circle of light at the end of the shaft.
He sighed, folded his arms, and transformed into a cloud of red smoke.
Up and away to meet his new master.
Judge’s Choice — J. Scott Coatsworth
Buy Links Etc:
Publisher (info only, no buy link yet): https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/the-pill-bugs-of-time
Apple: Coming soon
Barnes & Noble: Coming soon
Smashwords: Coming soon
Goodreads Series Page: https://www.goodreads.com/series/187509-qsf-flash-fiction
In the first year of the Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction contest, we received about 15 entries for the theme “Endings”. In the second year, it was 115 for “Discovery”.
This year, we had more than 170 entries from people around the world, and from all parts of the LGBTIQA rainbow. “Flight” represents 110 of those people and their stories.