My spotlight article was published today at Women on Writing. Enjoy!
“Three Reasons Why Flash is the Genre for You”
By: Melanie Faith
Don’t let the small size of flash fiction and nonfiction fool you—there’s a ton to recommend this little-genre-that-could.
· Got sci-fi? Got a personal essay? Got romance? Got magical realism? Great! Flash is diverse in subject matter. Just like its longer contemporaries, flash is a hot genre sought by many markets. I’ve seen seeking-submission ads just this week for flash fiction in anthologies, magazines, and for conferences. One market sought speculative fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and slipstream subgenres. Another market asked for flash memoirs, romance, horror, adventure, and cowboy tales. Still another market seeks environmental and travel narratives in flash. I’ve seen (and submitted my own flashes to) markets for humorous flash as well.
Both fiction and nonfiction flashes are prized by editors, so whether you like to write about yourself or to create characters, there’s room in flash for either. Or why not try writing flash in both genres? In my craft book, In a Flash! Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose , I offer oodles of practical tips and prompts for exploring and marketing flash in fiction and nonfiction.
Clearly, just about any topic you could spend a novel, novella, (auto)biography, or short story writing about can translate well as a subject for flash, too.
· Another advantage of flash is that most markets want multiple flashes at once. This is great news, because if they want three or five stories at a time, then you have three or five chances to wow them. Include what you think is your strongest flash first in the submission packet. Not sure which is your strongest piece? Ask a friend which piece stands out to them.
· Worried about not having enough plot development within such a small space? No worries. Many of us writers are already used to writing texts and Tweets. Trying our hands at flash in its many styles should be a snap.
Flash is economical but also has wiggle room to fit any plot. While the top word-count for flash is often set at either under 1,000 words or 750 words, that’s not the only length markets seek for flashes they publish.
Ever head of the “drabble?” That’s a flash of exactly 100 words. There’s an excellent book by Michael A. Kechula, called Micro Fiction: Writing 100 Word Stories (Drabbles) for Magazines and Contests , that details more about how to write and submit these 100-word gems.
There are also fifty-word stories, two-sentence stories, and even six-word stories (you read that right). I’ve seen contests and literary magazines, like Narrative Magazine , that seek six-word stories and often pay for them.
Whatever subject, style, or word-count works for you, there’s sure to be a market eagerly awaiting your flash submission!
Want to learn more?
Check out my upcoming online workshop that begins on Friday, March 15th. Here’s the scoop and the skinny:
Signed copies of my book for writers that is chockfull of great tips and examples for nonfiction and fiction flash writers, In a Flash: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, available at WritePathProductions.
A sale book bundle, of both my flash- and poetry-writing books, is also available for book lovers at Etsy.
My craft article was published at Women on Writing today. Enjoy! :)
“3 Tips for Developing Theme within Poetry”
By: Melanie Faith
I started as a fiction writer before discovering the wonders of poetry at the grand age of 17. (Thank you, Mr. B!)
One quality shared by resonant poems I read in literary journals, anthologies, and from my students' pens is a strong theme.
How can we explore theme to deepen our own poetry?
1. Imagery is where it's at. As poets, we are all about compression. Can we say it in fewer words? Can those few chosen words be rich in the five senses? Can the chosen diction include a symbol for a bigger idea? All of these questions help lead us to imagery that razzle-dazzles our readers.
If I wanted to write a love poem about tentative love, it's unlikely my readers will be as stirred by my flat-out stating, "We were on-again, off-again," as they would with a simple mention of a flickering candle on the windowsill.
Imagery is economical and meaningful. It also creates vivid pictures in your readers’ minds that they’ll remember long after reading your work and, in many cases, invite them back for further reads.
2. Characterization and setting can get the job done. I hear a boatload of discussion in fiction and nonfiction classes about creating realistic characters, and for good reason. This same technique can be applied to poetry to create fantastic engagement from readers and underscore your theme without the dreaded (drumroll, please) telling instead of showing [shiver].
Writers can create poems from numerous characters’ POVs to underscore theme. Persona poems develop a narrative and can be read as individual works of art, such as Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” or paired together to develop a longer narrative, conflict, and/or setting. Great examples include Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 classic Spoon River Anthology, Traci Brimhall’s Saudade (2017 Copper Canyon Press), and poems in my most-recent collection, This Passing Fever (2017 FutureCycle Press).
Paired poems may move back and forth through time and setting (as they do in Brimhall’s work and my work) or remain in one town or place (as in Masters’ collection).
3. Subtlety is your friend.
Sometimes, once we have chosen a theme for our poem, we excitedly write lines that spell out our meaning with all the charm of a doornail. For instance, using the word “grieving” and “died” in a poem whose theme explores death, or stating “flowers always make me happy” in a poem about the therapeutic powers of gardening.
Many poems I see that run off the rails do so when poets begin to explain (or over-explain) rather than trusting readers to intuit the theme on their own.
How can we provide clues for our readers so that they will be sure to deduce the theme?
Glad you asked: figurative language aplenty. Figurative language is understated yet satisfying. Similes and metaphors are often great indicators of theme. As are usage of symbols and imagery. Incorporating sound effects, such as words with hard d sounds for dramatic or tense themes or words with soft m or n sounds for quieter or peaceable themes, can other excellent thematic indicators.
Try this prompt: Choose a poem where you have stated part or all of the theme directly in your poem. Make a list of three images, symbols, characters, or settings that could highlight your theme instead. Pick one detail from your list and, after omitting your theme-stating line, add in details related to your chosen image, symbol, characters, or settings. Compare drafts.
Looking for inspiration to jump-start your Muse in early 2019? Have I got a class for you! Vigorous and Vibrant Verse: an Online Poetry Workshop.
Books and prompts make the BEST holiday presents.
Get a jump-start on your shopping with one of my three AWESOME books and some prompt cards to boot. Hey, stockings also have to be filled, right? ;) I’ll be happy to sign the books with any inscription you’d like. :)
Peruse these classics, make your list, and no need to stand in line or check twice! :) Just break out your gift wrap and surprise them with these inspiring treats:
For the writer of fiction or nonfiction in your life: In a Flash: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose. (New to my shop this season!)
For the poet in your life or your favorite poetry workshop or classroom (sponsor a classroom with this lovely book— guaranteed to make students from middle school through grad-school smile and make a teacher’s day): Poetry Power: An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic. (New to my shop this season!)
For the history-buff, teacher, poet, deep-thinker, and/or librarian in your life, there’s this wonderful historical poetry collection: This Passing Fever: 1918 Influenza Poems. (New to my shop this season!)
For the journalers and writers in your life. Makes a perfect gift for Secret Santas or to tuck into a care package for your favorite college student. Renewed: 30 Affirmation Cards.
Does your friend, love, or family member prefer the ever-so-thoughtful and personalized? I’ve got you covered. Commission your own poem. Le voila! Meaningful Poem Art—Typed.
My Prompt Cards make the perfect addition for inspiration for any traveler, writer, teacher, student, or creative in your life. Also, a great stocking stuffer.
My craft article was published as a spotlight today at Women on Writing. If you’re interested in writing more flash, check out my online class that starts on November 2nd. :) In a Flash
“How Sweet it Is: Writing Resonant Flash Prose”
By: Melanie Faith
When I was a kid, my dad used to stop on the way home from work each night to get the newspaper for my mom and a candy treat for me and my sister. One of our favorite treats was wrapped in a long, thin piece of see-through cellophane. Inside, was a string of thick white floss that had elasticity, and strung along this floss were shiny, bright candies. These circular gems, in popping pastel shades of yellow, pink, orange, and blue, were vaguely-sweetened like fruit and floral flavors (the yellow was slightly tart yet banana-ish and the blue, I recall, tasted like a cross between raspberry and the way a rose smelled).
Each candy bead had the kind of brittle crunch that a child relishes—chomp-chomp!—but which would make my adult teeth weep. The hues of the candies melted with each chomp until the string was bare and vaguely pinkish-whitish-yellowish-blue-orange by the time the last candy was presto-change-oed. After just a few moments, the candy dye bled onto fingertips, tongue, and face, revealing opaque-white candies’ underbellies.
A vivid sense memory I repeat is the internal debate—holding the cellophane-wrapped treat, after a hug from my dad: should I rip into the cellophane immediately and wear the candy-pretty necklace (sometimes I doubled it around my wrist like a fancy lady’s bracelet)? Yet, there was the candy, so tantalizing, that who could resist just a tiny bite? On the other hand, once bitten into, the string was sticky and not really conducive to wearing—destroyed, in a sense, for displaying.
It was a catch-22, albeit one of the best kinds, and the tension between knowing when to hold onto something and when to begin was the kind of life lesson that doesn’t have a perfect answer and yet which gets repeated, unbeknownst to the child’s mind, again and again in life. Timing— whether strung on a string or not, whether involving choosing a major or a love interest or a house or a car or another job or having a child— is an infinite loop of weighing pros and cons and, eventually, just diving in. A lesson, as a Type A elder daughter, I struggled with endless times, weighing the sour against the sweet, second-guessing myself: Was it too soon? But could there be a too late? Even after the satisfying crunch, the soggy, lone string.
In the above flash nonfiction, I began with a simple note I’d jotted this morning in my writer’s notebook while still half-asleep and making my to-do list for the day. Idea: candy necklaces we ate as kids. Hours of student correspondence, errands, lunch, and dishes passed before I sat down again, opened my notebook on my desk and commenced to write the above passages.
Clocking in at just under 400 words, my creative process and this piece highlight some of the best facets of the flash genre. Let’s examine them:
· Flash begins with—well, a flash! Ever used a writing prompt? Sure, most of us have encountered them in writing classes, writing groups, and in books. The genius of a prompt is that it revolves around one idea. Good flash starts with a kernel of a topic which the reader then writes into in discovery. In the case of my candy-necklace flash, my random memory (which popped into my head after seeing a necklace online of white beads) became the prompt I explored.
· Flashes are focused. Notice above how I say “one idea?” In flash, there’s not room for asides or diversions. Any details about the rest of my childhood—the scented dolls I adored, the children’s jokes I loved to tell and invariably flubbed the punch lines of, have no place in this piece—they need to be moved to their own flashes. One is plenty in developing flash.
· Flashes are about what they are about, and they are also about something bigger than their subject, too. In other words: readers learn about you and your characters but they also learn something resonant about humanity. Sure, this is a flash centered on a personal memory, but it also has a theme that readers can connect with their own experiences: timing. How do we know when it is the right, or the wrong, time to do anything? The reader should walk away asking and connect to circumstances in their own past or present. Consider universal themes.
· It’s all about the imagery, baby! Without hitting readers over the head by spelling out theme, how can we explore themes and other literary language? One of the easiest ways is to develop imagery. Just like in poetry, another condensed form, flash nonfiction and flash fiction often employ plenty of sensory images to get the job done (as does this flash with taste, smell, auditory/sound, and visual imagery).
· Flashes include tension. Without the final paragraph of my flash, there wouldn’t be a lot of resonance or conflict in my piece. Most of the other paragraphs are a nice memory involving candy—perhaps interesting for my nieces to read or some other Gen Xer or Baby Boomer who remembers this type of candy, but not the stuff of literature per say. The final two paragraphs introduce the pressure of both leaning on one’s own internal judgment and the suggestion (without spelling it out) of external conflict/judgment over choosing something too soon or being too late to spoil the fun.
Try this exercise: Set a timer and write for fifteen minutes without stopping about a food associated with your own childhood. Incorporate at least three of the five elements of successful flash either as you write or when you return to edit your piece after writing.
Wonderful news! My craft book for authors, In a Flash: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. The book drops on April 17th. Hurry, Spring! Reserve your copy today. Merci mille fois!
Clickety-click: In a Flash Pre-Order
My craft essay about editing essays was published through Women on Writing today. Catch some cool tips, below. :)
Artfully Editing Your Personal Essays
by Melanie Faith
Ah, the spark of inspiration--the keys clacking, the ideas flowing, the wind at your back! Shortly, however, the initial draft is finished, and it's time to begin the more arduous editing journey. Take heart...and these tips to sculpt your personal essay:
A bit of creative structuring may take a piece to an exciting new level. In Crafting The Personal Essay, Dinty W. Moore notes: "While most of my nonfiction writing follows a pretty traditional path, I have also composed essays that mimic the form of a coroner's report, a made-for-television movie script, and a Zen koan. One of my favorite experiments, 'Son of Mr. Green Jeans: An Essay of Fatherhood, Alphabetically Arranged' borrows a form known as abecedarium from the world of poetry." Consider unique subject headings or organizational methods. Poem titles, favorite thematic quotations, place names, even times of the day may all structure an essay into an intriguing mosaic.
Time, Time, Time
Although writing nonfiction, that doesn't mean that a writer must adhere strictly to chronological order. Consider flashbacks and flash forwards, mixing chronological time with the more sophisticated timing of personal epiphanies and hard lessons well-learned.
A writer may include many other "characters" within the piece--siblings, neighbors, exes and friends--but the central moments of change must occur for the speaker. Readers want to discover the aha! moment via the first-person narrator; she is the one readers root for and identify with most strongly. Edit or omit sections where discovery takes place through or for another person. An essay will be stronger for narrowing the focus.
"You don't Say!"
Dialogue can be a great tool for compression. Are there whole rambling sections describing setting, clothing, or personality that could be expressed more succinctly in a tart remark or an aside? In Naked, Drunk, and Writing, Adair Lara advises, "Dialogue is very readable, makes writing move fast, and is the fastest way to reveal character...Keep dialogue short and punchy. We're not allowed to say much before we're interrupted by others or something else is going on." Characterizations are strengthened by lopping off background fluff. A short interchange between speaker and friend can easily demonstrate more complex conflict. Lara further advises, "Dialogue gets interesting when there's subtext: what characters are saying between the lines." Trust that your readers will intuit much from less.
Edit details that don't showcase theme(s).
While interesting, does this portion contribute to the whole piece? Ask yourself: would a reader who had not experienced this person/event find a meaningful connection with the rest of the essay?
Set it aside. Then trust your gut.
When writing truth, a writer's emotional connection to the material can cloud editorial judgment. Take breaks of days or even weeks to let the material cool. With the passage of time, an essayist often finds the courage and perspective to hit the backspace key.