Would you rather use 6 words or 140 characters?

The speaker at our writers’ group this month talked about Flash Fiction. I learned, to my chagrin, that Flash doesn’t just mean fast. It’s not enough to tell your story, with beginning, middle and end, in less that 1,000, or 100, or 50 or 25 words, or even 140 characters. To write Flash Fiction, you also have to leave open a door to interpretation. Help!

The speaker introduced the intriguing concept of “My Life In Six Words,” otherwise known as MLI6W fiction. The famous “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn” is the classic example, but adding “My” to the heading resulted in a few “I like” or “I do” type pieces which sadly don’t qualify. As soon as you mention “I” you’ve tied your story down and closed the door, so we were told.

I wonder though, does “Mongrel Christian Mathematician, dreaming wishing” count? I suppose it’s only five words. And “Writing dreams to right wrongly-dreamed nightmares” is probably seven. Maybe the answer is I can’t count. Some members of the group came up with some seriously impressive six word offerings though. My favorite (from a good friend called Jayne) was “Let’s go; the kids are alright.”

But I like to tweet – now there’s a huge admission just on its own. So I have to ask, could “My Life in 140 characters” be flash fiction? I suspect the answer’s a definite maybe. Anyway, the whole process had me thinking about a writing exercise to go with our writers’ group’s next contest. We’re meant to take something from a children’s book and convert it into an adult story or poem. But what if we tried to open its doors and turn it into a flash of something the reader gets to interpret?

mice

Brainstorm:

Think of a children’s story, or even a nursery rhyme, with a beginning, middle and end. What about:

  • Three blind mice – the end is tailless
  • Cinderella – she marries her prince
  • Red Riding Hood – does she survive or die, and what about Grandma?
  • or choose your own

Looking deeper:

They say all fairy tales disguise some darker aspect of human life, so what is the darker tale behind the one you chose?

  • Those eye-less mice lose their tails as well – from those who have not, even more will be taken?
  • Cinderella’s prince is wonderful, but what secret price will she pay for the troubles of the mice who drove her carriage?
  • Red Riding Hood – I still wonder what happened to Grandma, stuck at home, waiting for the wandering child so long she ended up answering the door to a wolf instead.

Rapid Write:

Write the “adult” tale in no more than three sentences. Or let your imagination roam with just the idea of the original story.

  • In the country of the blind, the one who can see might be king, or might cut out the ears and tongues of his blind followers. Of course, then he’ll have no followers and he’ll be king of none.

Then look for keywords: blind, king, cut (or sever, destroy, lose…), alone… Play with them… and see what six words result. If it’s more than six, start counting characters (including spaces) up to 140 and tweet the result.

Lost eyewear? Worn-out music sings.

Lost without sight, stand still, for tailless strangers strut, their stage unfilled & scenes undone. Bombsite remains to tell of peace unwon

(Yeah, I know, I missed the period off, but Word counts it as 140 including spaces, and Twitter agrees.)

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