How to Write a Flash Fiction: A Working Analysis


In my previous blog post, I discussed six tips to keep in mind when writing any flash fiction, no matter the word count. I thought it might be helpful to show everyone how I have considered them when writing my own stories. Let’s first get a quick recap of those tips (feel free to review my previous blog https://www.michaelrkielfictions.com/post/what-is-flash-fiction) and then dive into the process considering a recent flash fiction of mine. At the end, I will provide you with the entire story in order for you to analyze how it all comes together.


1. Strong Imagery

2. Fewest Moments

3. Fewest Characters

4. Emotional Tension

5. First Person Point of View

6. Use the Title


First, let’s consider strong imagery – the old ‘Show vs Tell.” I have often enjoyed browsing through pictures for inspiration, usually on Instagram (as I follow many wonderful photographers). Sometimes I have used a picture to spark a feel for a story, while at other times I have used the image within the story itself as a location. For this flash fiction, I used both strategies. Take for instance this first photo.



My mind immediately conjured an eerie feeling, but also a nostalgic family setting. Shortly after I had chosen this photograph for inspiration, I wrote the following opening sentence.

It was nearly dawn, and the children were running amuck around the candlelit house

with their old nursemaid, Eliza, trailing behind, huffing, puffing, and shaking her

head.


In this sentence, I have provided the reader a sense of time, dropping him in the middle of an everyday action, clarifying not only a clear picture of the activity, but the roles of the participants. Children running in disarray with someone who is potentially out of shape and out of their element. I provided a sense of emotion as well by using the characters’ nonverbals (showing, not telling). This opening line has set the stage quite nicely (in my very biased opinion) for the entire story.


Regarding the second photo, I use it more literally in my description of a setting in the story.



Not far from the estate, within their acres of forests and creeks, there stood a stone

bridge. Arched and beautiful, old but sturdy, it had been constructed by the

children’s grandfather, an engineer, who had died years before they had been born.


The second tip from above embraces the idea at using fewer scenes and moments. Although

I technically used three scenes in this flash fiction, I split the major scene and incorporate a flashback (via a story told by one of the main characters), and have a brief flashback within a flashback to add depth to the family. Here is snippet that includes both.


Of course, when she had initially showed them the overpass, they were unimpressed,

having had no knowledge of such marvels of legacy, and, at the first opportunity,

began running along its path, giggling.


These same grandchildren, when approaching the bridge with their nanny, once

again pulled their hands free and went ahead of her.

If you notice, these flashbacks have provided a direct parallel with my opening sentence and a reoccurring motif in the story – children running around. This creates continuity.


Next, the third tip for writing flash fiction incorporates using fewer characters. Technically, nine characters are mentioned in my flash fiction. However, I have sidestepped needing to develop six of them. In essence, these “extra” ones are presented more to inform the reader’s view of the three main primary characters - building their history, reflecting their actions, and revealing an important twist. In other words, without the inclusion of the extra six the complexity of the story would be lost. I’ll let you read the entire flash fiction to gather a better sense of this explanation. For now, let’s move on to the fourth tip.


Arguably, emotional tension is critical to all stories. Without some sense of drama, the reader would grow bored, right? With that said, however, emotional tension is likely at the core of flash fiction. If you recall momentum from my previous post, you do not have many words to reach the reader and so you have little to no time building to an emotional scene or action. Therefore, you need to be highly strategic with how you construct the drama and tension. I love to use twists at the end of my flash fiction. For this blog post though, I will leave that spoiler hidden until you read my full story. Instead, I will give you the full opening paragraph and dissect how I create emotional tension with it.


It was nearly dawn, and the children were running amuck around the candlelit house

with their old nursemaid, Eliza, trailing behind, huffing, puffing, and shaking her

head. Meanwhile, Heath, the youngest of the three Arneshaw’s, slumbered peacefully

upstairs in his crib next to his parents.


We previously reviewed how I used the opening sentence to create imagery. However, I also used it to create frustration, a tense environment, at least for the character Eliza. The subsequent sentence has created a calmer environment. The two sentences in juxtaposition with one another have created emotional tension, leaving the reader likely in a state of cognitive dissonance (the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change), which needs resolution, stability. Ideally, the continued reading of the story is how a reader will discover resolution. In other words, I have provided a hook to read more.


Emotional tension is also often achieved by using the fifth tip – first person point of view (see my previous blog for more discussion). As a writer, though, third person is my default, an unconscious decision for most stories, including this flash fiction. Since I did not use first person point of view, I embraced the other tips that much more, including the next and final one.


Take the Egg


This is the title of my flash fiction. Without spoiling too much, I have used it in the following ways. First, it has directly quoted and highlighted the main character. Second, as a quote from the story, it has highlighted the moment from which it has been taken, indicating its importance to the reader. These two things combined then have signaled the phrase’s prominence for the entire story, providing a clue for the reader to discern. Ultimately, the title has been tied into most of the tips that have been discussed.


Now that we have reviewed each of the tips and how they have been incorporated into the story, let’s read the entre flash fiction and then give you an opportunity to provide some feedback.



Take the Egg


It was nearly dawn, and the children were running amuck around the candlelit house with their old nursemaid, Eliza, trailing behind, huffing, puffing, and shaking her head. Meanwhile, Heath, the youngest of the three Arneshaw’s, slumbered peacefully upstairs in his crib next to his parents.


Anna turned a corner. Bront, trailing his sister, bumped into her. Eliza reached out and nearly caught a scrap of his collar. He dropped a shoulder, twisted, and ran after his sister, giggling, successfully alluding capture.

“You two will never cease and desist,” said Eliza, catching her breath.

The old nursemaid grabbed her dress and hiked it up over heels, pursuing her two animated wards down a long, shadowed corridor. When she reached an open area, she halted her steps and let her dress fall to her feet. Swiveling her head, she strained her ears.


To her left, a dining room. To her right, a study.

Giggles came from the study.

Eliza rolled her eyes to the ceiling, grinning. She stood tall and cracked her back,

puffing her cheeks and exhaling.

“Such a dizzy age!” she exclaimed, shuffling her feet into the dining room. “I must rest my poor back.”

Eliza found a chair and sat with an exaggerated sigh. Not more than five seconds later, two pairs of feet shuffled on the carpet in the study. Eliza pressed her lips together, suppressing a chuckle.

“Those two always take the egg!” she said, shaking her eyes and head at the ceiling, swinging a closed fist into the air.

“Awww, Miss Lizzy,” said a sweet feminine voice from behind. “We don’t always win.”

Eliza feigned surprised, jumping in her chair, and turning. Anna approached first, then Bront. One stood on either side of her chair.

“Yeah, you almost won this time,” said Bront, pausing, crumpling his brow. “You almost caught me.”

The two children patted her on the back. Eliza could no longer restrain herself and squeezed both children in her arms, laughing.

A longcase clock announced the hour, interrupting the embrace. Bront groaned and Anna drooped her head. She kissed both of their foreheads.

“Come, come,” said Eliza. “We must not look so forlorn.”

“But I don’t want to leave,” said Bront, moaning.

Anna sobbed. “Me neither.”

Eliza glanced out the window. She had drawn the curtains back before the chase game had begun.

“The sun has still not spoken,” she said, winking at them.

She lifted Bront’s chin and then dried Anna’s tears.

“Come, let us sit for a spell,” she said, pulling out two chairs and patting the cushions. “We’ve time for a story.”

The children instantly beamed with brighter faces. They sat and gazed at Eliza, their feet floating, swinging far above the carpet. The old nursemaid cleared her throat, mulling over a tale.


At length, she sighed and began.


------

Nearly a year ago, on a clear summer day, two children and their nanny seized a rare opportunity of freedom. The woman discussed with the children’s parents the idea of having a picnic in the countryside. Upon securing their confidence, the nanny packed sandwiches and fruits for a picnic and departed from the house with the children, holding their hands and laughing with them.

Not far from the estate, within their acres of forests and creeks, there stood a bridge. Arched and beautiful, old but sturdy, it had been constructed by the children’s grandfather, an engineer, who had died years before they had been born. Their grandmother, who had been dead two years now, had bragged to her grandchildren the familial magnificence of the bridge. Of course, when she had initially shown them the overpass, they were unimpressed, having had no knowledge of such marvels of legacy, and, at the first opportunity, began running along its path, giggling.


These same grandchildren, when approaching the bridge with their nanny, once again pulled their hands free and went ahead of her. Despite being chastised, they ran upon the stone. Although the nanny warned them that the walkway was slick with dew, they skipped. And even though she squealed from the top of her lungs, the children climbed on top of the rock walls and continued to skip.

The nanny chased after them every instant. Her eyes wide, she reached out with her arms, missing them one final time.


The girl fell first. Her hands thrusting out in panic, they grabbed an ankle of her brother, pulling him over the edge with her. Together, the brother and sister tumbled over the side, screaming, falling over twenty feet until the shallow water below drowned their cries forever.


------

Eliza finished their tale and sighed.

His mouth agape, Bront shook his head at her.

“Why ever would you tell us such a depressing story, miss Lizzy,” he said. “Tell us another one. But keep it cheery.”

He laughed with uncertainty and then caught a glimpse of his sister’s face. Anna had paled. Her skin had become translucent.

The clock chimed once more.


Upstairs above them, a thud resonated. Soon it was followed by running feet.

Eliza glanced at a ray of light from the window and then frowned at them both. Next, she kissed Bront on the cheek. Then, she turned to Anna and paused. Though her eyes swelled with sorrow, the girl restrained her tears.

“I love you, Miss Lizzy,” said Anna.

“I know, young Anna,” said Eliza. “And I love you.”

Now it was the old nursemaid who began to tear up. She sniffled, leaned over, and kissed Anna on her forehead.


Above them, the same footsteps ran and reached the top of the staircase.

Eliza leaned back.


“Go on,” whispered Eliza, smiling as best she could, her mouth quivering. “Take your brother. I’ll see you both tomorrow morning.”

Anna nodded. She stood from her chair and grabbed Bront by his hand.

“Come on, Bront, let’s play outside.”

Bront turned his head from Eliza to Anna, curled his brow, and finally hopped off the chair. His sister escorted him out of the dining room. Without looking back, they ran toward the front door, holding each other’s hand, no longer giggling.

Meanwhile, Eliza turned after them, her eyes glistening.


The children reached the door, their forms vanishing. Their footprints, tiny and wet, had already begun to dry.


THE END



There you have it. What did you think? Did you observe the tips referenced in the story?


Although I’d appreciate a like and a share of this blog, I’d love to hear your thoughts even more! Please sign up as a member and leave a comment.


Did you find the post and analysis helpful? If so, what tips or parts? Would you be interested in having another of my flash fiction features analyzed in such a manner?


Or perhaps, what other aspects of my writing would you like to see in a blog post?


Thank you for reading!


You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, Wattpad, and Medium with the handle @michaelrkielfictions. If you enjoyed this blog post, please feel free to share to your friends, fellow writers, and readers on your social media platforms!


Take care!


Michael R Kiel Fictions

Blog 2 – 12-8-2020


First photo found on Instagram @ig_scotland

Second photo found on Instagram @kafetsis.a.fotis

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