I wrote another chapter this week about how to come up with good ideas. That post was more along the lines of how to gather and collect and combine these ideas to develop them into great stories. Tonight’s post is going to be kind of similar, but better. There’s a great way for you to come up with good ideas that doesn’t involve all of the planning and searching.
It’s called flash fiction. You might have heard of it. It’s kind of like “pantsing” in writing, but different. Basically, flash fiction is where you write from a prompt for a certain amount of time without any planning ahead. You might have a key word you have to use in the story, or the limit to one page, or something that gives you one rule to follow, but also leaves the writing open for many possibilities. My favorite is when I challenge myself to write for a certain amount of time straight without taking my pen off of the paper.
Flash fiction is great for coming up with ideas because it gives you something to expand on. I have one that I originally wrote based off of something from reality that I want to use for my next book… Flash fiction is easy. It’s fast. It takes very little effort in the long run and it works as a great warm up to your marathon of editing or writing. You could easily build up hundreds of these one page long scenes. And you know what that means? Hundreds of possible stories.
And of course, as said in one of my last posts, things get even more interesting in story land when you decide to combine ideas. So picking two of those flash fictions you wrote and tying them into the same book? Great idea.
You all know about my avid collection of notebooks and journals… and baskets and jars… of ideas. I have a lot of places that I store my stories. I have a basket of ideas. I have a jar of prompts. I have a journal I can keep with me for immediate story planning needs… I have a lot of places is my point.
So here’s one for you! Get a notebook. Turn to the first page and get out a pen. Now write for one minute straight. About anything you want. It could be a narrative or a true story or you could even be saying the same words over and over again. The only rule is that you can’t pick up your pen from the paper the entire time (except for, you know, spaces and punctuation).
Ready, set, go.
How did you do? Good, good. Turn the page.
Let’s try another one. Take a look at what your first flash fiction looked like and figure out what you ant to improve in your next one. This time, you have to write a full page, no time limit, but you have to use the word, “baffled”. Make it completely separate from your first.
Still going strong? Now you’ve done two. That’s a full front and back page filled. Two beginnings to stories. Or endings… or middles.
Now you have the rest of that notebook you can fill up!
This is just another technique to get where you need to go with your story ideas. When you have an idea that is only a few key words or phrases, it seems more like a distant possibility. With flash fiction, you’ve started something. It’s coming to life. From there, it’s a lot easier to put it all together. You can look at all of the details and make a spider web from it, the flash fiction in the very center and the rest branching off of it. Instead of coming up with characters and writing them, start with the character and get to know them through the writing.
It doesn’t have to be on a specific prompt that you find on the internet. That makes it less original. Just come up with one rule each time. It could be anything. A page length, a time limit, a key word to use, a word you can’t use, a certain time of day, a certain season, a futuristic setting, a setting in the past, a grumpy character, and loud character, a tone word, a genre…
And let’s face it. In small portions, not outlining is good. It makes it spontaneous and original. It gets your mind whirling around you. That’s what you want to start out with, and then you can use it to outline for something bigger. Outlining is good for big picture things, like novels, because you won’t get lost along the way. You won’t fall into major plot holes when you go back to edit or be searching over cliffs where a character might have randomly dropped off. It will all be organized to begin with.
I’m planning on writing a lot more of these, too, and putting some short stories out there for people to read based off of a few of them… Maybe. We’ll see.
My Challenge for you is to write a few flash fictions. Maybe do one as a warm up before writing every now and then. Or whenever you are bored and sitting in a waiting room. Maybe do one before you go to bed, or when you wake up.
Give it a try. Comment what you think.
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And welcome! I know I recently got a horde of new readers, so here’s a little highlight that you may have missed: I’m hosting a beta reading for my next book, and if you participate you will get to read it for free before it’s out and get your name in the acknowledgements (among other things)! For more information about the beta reading, how to sign up, and what it is, click here.
Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!