My article about flash-writing was published today. Ta-da! Give the writing exercise a spin.
“Four Tips for Writing Fantastic Flash”
by: Melanie Faith
Good things come in small packages. Chocolate truffles. Earrings. Me—okay, that last one is wishful thinking since I round my height up to 5’2”, but you get the picture.
Flash is the mighty genre that could and no exception to the small-packages rule of thumb. In both fiction and nonfiction, flash stories tell a narrative, develop a character and setting, craft conflict and tension to a surprising ending, and more—all in just 1,000 words or less. Pretty impressive!
Use these four tips and the accompanying exercise to craft some stellar flash.
· Set two characters against each other. Ever lived in a dorm? Then you know that very rarely do even two people (much less a whole group) view similar experiences the same way. Such conflict is a key component of good flash. Whether your characters compete for the same person, place, or thing or just have opposing personal, political, or ideological views, one sure way to maintain conflict within a flash is to pair two characters in a clash of goals. When I judge flash contests, one of the key disappointments is when a good flash character or concept doesn’t have enough tension to sustain the flash, so the prose falls flat.
· Ready, set, action! Your protagonist or speaker must DO something. Flashes aren’t as dynamic if the character is inert or has things done to her or him. Detail your protagonist’s physical actions and responses. Many promising flash drafts I’ve read go off the rails when they include a character reflecting on something that has occurred—which is fine for a sentence or two, maybe, but for a flash to really zing off of the page, the character must push back in deed. In real life, I need a fair amount of reflection time, but in my flash writing, I avoid it. Wind those characters up and let them move on the page! Which brings us to our next tip:
· When in doubt, include (a little) body language. Sometimes, jokingly, I’ve referred to dialogue without any speaker tags or visual imagery for several paragraphs as “floating heads,” because the characters seem to exist in outer space, without a clear physical presence. Readers don’t need to know every single cough, sneeze, or hand on the hip, but if your readers can’t imagine how characters are reacting to each other—whether through vocal tone, rolled eyes, tapping toes or shifting uncomfortably- then they probably won’t have as deep an investment in characters’ struggles. Much of what real people communicate in everyday life is demonstrated through body language; sprinkle a few well-placed images between the dialogue to show the conflict between what the character says and how the character or others physically react.
· Contradictions make better flash characters. In other words: we’re all a mess, so why not mine it? Another problem in some flash I see are characters who are one-sided, with a single personality trait that is not-so-awesome for flash: they are too agreeable. Something bad happens, and they accept it as the way things are or they make a decision to ignore it entirely. Strong writing brings us characters who have a main trait—kindness, enthusiasm, anger—and an opposing trait that rears its head now and again—selfishness, mercurial moods, humor at the wrong moment. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Guess what—we all have these two opposing sides and must function, which creates the kind of exhaustion and frustration that doesn’t always make life easy but which makes for fantastic conflict, tension, and character development in flash.
Try this exercise: Your speaker or protagonist has always reacted to injustice by ________________, but today, a different side of their personality is going to shine. Instead, they will _________________. Include inner thoughts of the character or speaker right before they decided what to do, during, and after. Include at least a line of dialogue in your flash where a person with a different opinion or view tries to stop your speaker or protagonist. What happens next? Go!
Looking for a fun online writing class? Still a few spots in my Flash writing class that starts on Oct. 25th. :) In a Flash Details.
I’ll also be teaching a novel class in January. Outlining Your Novel with Ease Details.
Super excited for my next book, Photography for Writers, which will be published this November. Stay tuned!
That holding the first author copy feeling! 💕🔥📝📷😭😍💡
My poetry publisher, FutureCycle Press, is offering titles as part of Free Kindle Saturday for a limited time. My book, This Passing Fever, will be a part of the promotion. Check it out at: Free Kindle Saturdays Poetry .
For a signed copy: check out my Etsy page: This Passing Fever, Signed.
For unsigned copies, try Amazon: This Passing Fever at Amazon .
One reader’s review: “This book of poems provides a first-hand account, along with some historical perspective, of the 1918 Influenza epidemic in one small town. Beginning with a childhood rhyme, Melanie traces the spread of the epidemic through the town, to Camp Funston in Kansas and back to the mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and the children felled by this epidemic and to those who survive. Bringing home the futility felt by all and most assuredly the medical professionals in the town, the book is a heart-rending account of this difficult time. In addition to the personal poems that Melanie has imagined, she has used information gathered from oral interviews, documentaries and reports to pull focus back to get the wider view of the impact of the epidemic. The poems capture your imagination and the reader is drawn to the next and the next to discover the fate of the people one comes to know. Highly recommended.”
Another reader’s review: “Through tears and sighs and a pause or two to take a deep breath before continuing, I read this amazing poetry collection cover to cover in one sitting The initial poem snatched me from the present and immediately immersed me in small-town life during the 1918 influenza pandemic. This wasn't so much a history lesson, it was a journey through the eyes of those who experienced the helplessness and horror of losing neighbors, friends, teachers, parents, siblings - and the strength demanded of them to hold onto their hope and faith. I wasn't just the reader, I was in Kansas in 1918 with the folks in these poems. I could see, hear, touch, taste, and feel what it was like to live through the epidemic. That's the power and precision of Melanie Faith's writing. Read this poetry collection and share it.”
Pleased to have updated my Etsy shop,Write Path Productions .
I’m now offering free shipping on orders of $35 or more which, to give you an idea, would be one 8 x 10 print or two 5 x 7 prints of your choice.
I’ve also added six of my favorite recent shots I’ve taken, such as these.
Check out all six new prints at: Write Path Productions Prints .
So pleased that my article was published as a Spotlight article at Women on Writing this week. I’ll also be teaching a themed online writing class in September (scroll to the end of the post for the link to the course and more details).
“Food Writing: Introducing the Quotable Yum Factor”
By Melanie Faith
I’ve been a quote collector from way back. I can’t help but relish words of wisdom on the topic of food that demonstrate not only eating but also sharing our love for nourishment through writing is just about the best thing since, well, sliced bread.
Why food writing? you ask. Let’s take a look at three quotes that explore just why food writing sustains and entertains writers and readers:
· “First we eat, then we do everything else.” -M.F.K. Fisher
Think back to some of your first memories; most of these remembrances likely involve food, food preparation, eating, snacking, or all of the above . Do these memories involve a birthday party? There was certainly cake with decadent, butter-rich icing or the waft of cocoa powder at the first slice. What about memories of a yearly special occasion shared around the table with family and friends, like the first savory bites of Grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing with the pecans and what was that delicious spice she always winked and called her “secret ingredient”?
Food has an undeniable connection to place, culture, and time period that can inspire evocative writing. We often recall not just what we ate and how it tasted (which is a sensory feast enough) but who we were with (or not with), the location, and other events that were occurring while we noshed.
Food brings both comfort and spark points for poetic prose and narrative verse. Try this: set a timer for fifteen minutes and make a list of foods or dishes from your growing-up and teen years and your young adult days. Any of these foods could make great material for a free write, because they are connected to wider experiences and places in your past or present. Combine setting details with food details for a richer mixture.
· “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” -Ernestine Ulmer
Feel the push-pull in the above quote? That’s part of what makes it delicious, non? Tension and conflict, two hallmarks of literature, are perfect companions for writing about food as well.
As a creative-writing teacher and bookworm, I’ve read many scenes
in novels and nonfiction manuscripts where food served as a backdrop or symbolism for the deeper struggles in characters’ or speakers’ lives.
For example, you might combine a protagonist who is scared to tell his love interest something about his past with a breakfast scene in which he prepares his love’s favorite waffles. How does he avoid telling this truth, using the food as a go-between? How does he work himself up to sharing this secret? Dialogue as well as description of his actions and the food all work together to deepen the writing.
· “I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.” -Nora Ephron
Mistakes in life and/or love, who hasn’t made some? Ephron’s quote reminds us, as writers, to employ wry humor as we look back on our pasts. It also reminds that, as disappointing or frustrating as things became, there were silver linings that sustained us.
Cooking and writing, too, share the need for a healthy sense of humor and a silver-lining attitude. Ever made a cake, following the entire recipe, but the cake fell flat or never rose at all. [Instructor raises her hand.] Ever written a draft that seemed so promising and then either stalled mid-draft or just didn’t go in a direction you expected? [Instructor’s hand again goes up.]
Food writing has two great strengths: one, there is the opportunity for humor (perhaps something unexpected, non?). I’ve read hilarious blogs and essays where a writer takes a kitchen disaster or restaurant meal gone wrong and serves up a wider truth about how we rebound and try, try again.
Also, food writing encompasses many, many genres. Its versatility is part of the reason why I love writing food scenes and, for several years now, teaching a writing workshop to encourage others to do so.
· Like poetry? Try “Figs” by D.H. Lawrence, “Ode to the Onion” by Pablo Neruda, or “After Apple-Picking” by Robert Frost.
· Enjoy personal essays and food-journal articles? How about anthologies with both? Try the annual The Best American Food Writing books for inspiration.
· How about travel writing? Yep, food writing also falls under that category, such as blogs that detail the best bistros and taco trucks in your town or city.
· I haven’t forgotten the prose writers. Many novels include scenes or even whole chapters where food plays a significant part in the narrative. The examples and sub-genres of fiction that involve food are endless, such as: classics like the party scene in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to children’s books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, YA like Stephanie Burgis’ The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, Contemporary Fiction like Kirstin Chen’s Soy Sauce for Beginners, Romance like Yolanda Wallace’s Month of Sundays, Historical Fiction like Crystal King’s Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome and Philip Kazan’s Appetite, and many more.
Go ahead: do a little “food-writing research” today. Pick one of the above food-writing genre examples and research and/or read the piece(s). Then, give food-writing a go on your own. Whether in poetry, prose, or a combination of both, your writing is sure to be richly filling and enhanced with eating imagery.
I’ll be teaching an online writing class, beginning Friday, September 13th. Just four more openings left. Click for more details about this delicious course. Food Writing for Fun and Profit.