Writing Tip: Flash Fiction

Have you tried flash fiction yet? What does flash fiction mean?

‘A flash fiction piece is a self-contained story (beginning/middle/end), 1,000 words or less, that can entertain, intrigue, and satisfy a reader during an F5 tornado. That’s it. No genre restrictions, age requirements, or prior experience needed. Just quick, clean stories.’ – Writer’s Digest

‘Part poetry, part narrative, flash fiction–also known as sudden fictionmicro fiction, short short stories, and quick fiction—is a genre that is deceptively complex.’ – The Review Review

‘Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development. Identified varieties, many of them defined by word count, include the six-word story, the 280-character story, the “dribble”, the “drabble”, “sudden fiction”, flash fiction, nanotale, and “micro-story”.’ – Wikipedia

I like writing in a short form. I’ve been told I have the sensibility of a poet because I have the ability to distill, so the short form suits me. You may be more of a long distance runner, rather than a sprinter, and prefer the long form of a novel.

Have a read of my flash fiction titled It’s Pot Luck When You Move Into A Unit, winner of the short short fiction UTS Alumni Competition a few years ago. Hope you enjoy it.

It’s Pot Luck When You Move Into a Unit

A nice quiet weekend? the woman downstairs said.  What do you mean? I said, through the open back door, a bag of rubbish in each hand.  She smoothed her ironing on the board and said, They weren’t around over the weekend—with the baby.  She looked happy.  I’m lucky living on the top floor, I said.  She nodded towards the other side of the building.  Jim isn’t so luckyhe’s got the woman upstairs, she said, When he plays the piano and she thumps on the floor.   She put the iron back on its stand.  She’s heavy-footed, that woman.  Bang, bang, bang.   I hear her coming down the stairs every morning at six, and the slam of the front door. 

That night the wind knocked my vase off the window ledge.  I lay awake wondering if the noise of the smash had woken up the people underneath—the ones whose barbecuing sends smoke and disgusting meat smells into my unit.  Nothing clings to your furniture like the stink from last week’s burnt fat.   Sorry about the crash, I muttered to the floor, It was the wind.

Copyright 2018 Libby Sommer

Why not try your hand at writing in this short form and enter a flash fiction competition. Good luck.

My Micro Fiction: When the New Boyfriend Nearly Died

My micro fiction ‘When the New Boyfriend Nearly Died’ was first published in Quadrant magazine in December 2021.

Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

When the New Boyfriend Nearly Died:

In the hospital’s public toilet, your face pleads back at you, white and worried. Far as you know, your new boyfriend had a heart attack while bouncing between your child-bearing hips. Too much of a strain. It’s not your fault. When he was admitted to Emergency you didn’t know if you’d ever see him again.

After five hours of waiting, you ask the receptionist if you can go in. When she asks you, you can’t pronounce his Polish surname. You spell out the letters. She considers you through the gap in the partition. You tell her you’re his new girlfriend. So you’re the one, she must be thinking before pressing the red button that lets you in.

He is lying in bed, a canula in his arm. His eyes are closed. You sit in a chair beside him and hold his hand. This would never have happened if it weren’t for you. Nurses and doctors hurry past clutching clipboards.

Don’t die on me, you plead.

If he dies, what you will miss are his text messages of love, the thwack of his body, and the pots of Japanese tea you shared. In bed you’d sip from tiny ceramic mugs.

You make a mental list of your strengths and weaknesses: you’re good at hedonistic pleasures, bad at Cryptics, bad at lonely Sundays, good at making new friends, bad at staying in touch, good at making loose-leaf tea after sex with an addict, good at falling for men who can’t stop swallowing uppers and downers. Good at loving your new boyfriend who took too many pills and now you’re worried he’ll die.

Are you dreaming, or did he just squeeze your hand?

Copyright 2021 Libby Sommer

Spirituality & Creativity

What is the relationship between spirituality and creativity? The discipline and focused attention cultivated through meditation help us do one thing at a time, totally and absolutely, which greatly enhances our writing.

Contemplative practice, daily nature walks, and still, silent listening can be among the best natural meditations. They help clarify our minds and uplift the heart, dissolving our ordinary preoccupations and mental states that dissipate the fertile spirit within. Such daily disciplines are also excellent tonics for our agitated, febrile brains and weary bodies. When we ease into the realm of non-doing–what Chinese Buddhists called wu wei–there is more room for our mysterious, unfabricated inner self to naturally emerge.’ – Lama Surya Das

It’s tough being a writer. Very tough. As Thomas Mann says, A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Dinty Moore, in his book The Mindful Writer, Noble Truths of the Writing Life, says his lifelong pursuit of writing and creativity has helped to open him to the path of Buddhism:

‘Find inspiration and insight on writing as a spiritual practice through astute quotes, thoughtful advice, and productive exercises on both mindfulness and craft.  This isn’t your typical “how to write” book. Author Dinty W. Moore, a well-respected writing coach and teacher, thoughtfully illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits and grow as a person, and what it means to live a life dedicated to writing.’ – The Mindful Writer

Here’s to Mindfulness and Meditation to help us on our way through our roller coaster lives as creative writers.

My Poem ‘White Ibis’

My poem ‘White Ibis’ was first published in Quadrant magazine in December 2021. Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

White Ibis

We wish that nature could stay put

in their home, far away …

not urban tip turkeys, bin chickens –

not like us,

scrounging for a living in cities,

but stay where they thrive,

feeding in swamps, lagoons,

floodplains & grasslands

their black downward-curved bills

digging for crayfish and mussels.

The farmers’ friend,

featherless black heads

flocking in V-shaped flight

to locust-afflicted areas,

gorging on ravaging hordes of insects.

Unlike us, they can eliminate

plagues with ease.

There are nights when we fall asleep

dreaming of ibises

flying back home.

Copyright 2021 Libby Sommer