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Book: Nancy Stohlman, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

About Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

Once you go short… you don’t come back!

Flash fiction is changing the way we tell stories. Carving away the excess, eliminating all but the most essential, flash fiction is putting the story through a literary dehydrator, leaving the meat without the fat. And it only looks easy.

Enter Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction. In this, her treatise on the form, veteran writer Nancy Stohlman takes us on a flash fiction journey: from creating, sculpting, revisioning and collecting stories to best practices for writers in any genre. It is both instructive and conversational, witty and practical, and presented in flash fiction chapters that demonstrate the form as they discuss it. If you’re already a flash fiction lover, this book will be a dose of inspiration. If you teach flash fiction, you’ll want it as part of your repertoire. And if you’re new to the form, you might just find yourself ready to begin.

Overall, this is a fast-paced and memorable work. A fun and eminently useful literary treasure map.

-Kirkus Reviews

Buy Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction from Ad Hoc Fiction.


Excerpt

Bribing the Muse: On Your Mark, Get Set…

A great trick to create urgency in a flash fiction story is by using another constraint: Time.

For almost a decade now, all my college classes have begun with a 10-minute timed writing. Timed writing is nothing new. We know that it helps us transition us into the writing space, like stretching before a workout. We know that it forces us to stay present and dig deeper—writing past where we might have naturally given up. And we know that keeping the pen moving quickly, without crossing things out or rereading, is a great way to evade the internal critic and uncover fresh ideas.

But I discovered something else through years of this practice: 10 minutes of writing without stopping is also the perfect amount of time to draft a flash fiction story idea from start to finish.

It makes sense: Flash fiction is defined by a word constraint, so why not create under a time constraint? Having that clock ticking while you furiously try to reach the end of an idea gives the piece a natural sense of urgency. And writing from the beginning to the end in one sitting also creates a sense of continuity—we see the end coming as we embark on the journey.

You can use timed writing in many ways. For instance, you can:

  • Set the timer while writing to a prompt.
  • Set the timer when you’re feeling stuck and don’t know what to write about.
  • Set the timer and rewrite a “flat” story from scratch while the clock chases you to the finish line (my favorite)
  • And as a daily practice it’s even better. Besides, you can do anything for 10 mins, right?


    Story

    Tiny House

    After the Rapture I decided to buy a tiny house. The realtor met me in the driveway.

    That’s not a tiny house, I said. That’s a Barbie house.

    You say Barbie house, I say tiny house the realtor said. Wait until you see the inside.

    The realtor opened the flimsy door. The walls were made of pink vinyl with drawings of bookshelves and framed family photos and a two-dimensional/crayon television. That’s for easy collapsing the realtor said. The whole house can fold up into this suitcase—he held up a pink suitcase—which most people find extremely convenient.

    The fridge door can open the realtor said, opening and closing the door several times. And your oven comes with a roast chicken already cooked.

    It looks delicious I lied.

    Yes, it does. The house comes with wine glasses but no actual wine, of course.

    Of course.

    In the bedroom there was a walk-in closet with tiny hangers and a vinyl bed that folded down from the wall. A cat sat unmoving on the bed.

    I’m allergic to cats I said.

    Oh, you won’t be allergic to this one he said.

    As we stood there one of the vinyl walls started to buckle and he pushed it back into place.

    The best part about this house are the amenities he says, taking me outside to the carport and a pink Cadillac. The car comes with the house.

    Wow, that is a perk, I say.

    Yes it is. You may be asked to sell some Mary Kay skin care products, but I think you’ll find the moisturizer is great. Hold on he says, checking his phone. I need to take this.

    While he steps to the corner where the two vinyl walls meet, I look in the closet. A candy-striper outfit, a pink tennis outfit. A pink ball gown. Pink leather.*the later refrain starts here. Start it earlier?

    Good news he says, I’ve been authorized to throw in the Barbie ice cream maker—it makes real ice cream and other frozen treats.

    Hmmm.

    And the Barbie helicopter and landing pad.

    Well I have to be honest—it wasn’t quite what I had in mind, I said. I was thinking of a tiny house made of wood or something. You know, like they have on tv.

    Oh you won’t see a house like this on tv, he agrees. And actually, you won’t find another house like this in the entire state—most of them have been recalled.

    Okay, let me think about it.

    Don’t take too long he says. A deal like this won’t last forever.

    Nancy Stohlman has been writing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for more than a decade, and her latest book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2020) is her treatise on the form. Her other books include The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, The Monster Opera, and Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award. Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Macmillan’s The Practice of Fiction, and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for the stage and screen. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and around the world.

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