Wednesday, 11 December 2013

In a Flash

‘Yesterday,’ reads the email, ‘we came up with the idea of the Twelve Days of Choc Lit Christmas.’ Then follows an invitation to get involved by writing a 500 word ‘Chrismassy and romantic’ short story. ASAP.

This is what my dad would have called a ‘free’ job and, as a carpenter, he was never short of people offering him work without payment. Writers too, I’ve noticed, get a lot of free jobs which we tend to accept if there’s any chance at all of increasing our ‘discoverability’ (what a word). The fact is there are an awful lot of authors out there pushing an awful lot of books and a glance at my royalty statement, which also happens to come in this week, tells me I could do with increasing my discoverability quite a lot.

It’s fortunate then that the rewards of writing, for me, are to do with that alchemy of creating something out of nothing; locations that seem real to me, characters I live with during the writing process and who often remain with me afterwards. The sheer sense of satisfaction that comes when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. And the feeling when readers enjoy what I’ve written is pretty special too.

So, flash fiction – where to begin? I’m not a great believer in writing rules – those ‘always’ and ‘never’ lists seem to crush originality and stifle unique voices, but I do think stories, however short, should have a structure. I’m terribly drawn to fixing ‘broken’ people in my writing so my structure is to do with taking that poor broken character, helping them find ways to overcome their problems and, hopefully, leaving them in a much happier place.

I also begin with a strong visual image in my mind’s eye, like a ‘still’ from a film. For my Choc Lit story it began with a shabby beach hut – probably composted from my recent visit to East Anglia – but also linked to Little Spitmarsh, the sleepy seaside town that features in Turning the Tide and Follow a Star. In this case the beach hut was being buffeted by an icy winter wind which set the Christmas lights in the town swinging on their strings.  It was getting dark… and suddenly there was Tansy, bright as a spark in her enveloping orange coat, but sad, apprehensive and pondering on her problem. Then I got my first line; ‘You couldn’t exactly divide a beach hut in half, could you? ’

You can read on and find out what Tansy did next in my short Christmas romance, Present Perfect – and receive a free short story for every one of the twelve days of Christmas - by signing up here.


7 comments:

Kathryn Freeman said...

Ooh, now I'm glad I signed up - looking forward to reading your 'flash'!!

Chris Stovell said...

Thanks, Kate... I just hope you enjoy it now. I've signed up for my treats too! Looking forwards to reading everyone's stories.

Pondside said...

I'm off to have a look. I'm slow.....but like the tortoise, I'm sure!

Flowerpot said...

I'm off to sign up now - sounds a great idea!

Chris Stovell said...

Pondside - anyone would think you had nothing to do ;) !!

It was great fun to do, Sue - and lovely to read the variations on a 500 word story.

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