Monday, June 3, 2013

Flash Mortem (Ah Ah, King Of The Impossible)

Writing flash fiction is like packing for a five day vacation on a motor scooter. As much as you want to bring everything with you, you're gonna have to make some decisions. One thing I like about it is how it forces you to look at each paragraph and ask yourself the question "is this the most awesome thing I can write in this space?"

Sometimes you have a paragraph that you really, really like, but you then realize that it's 100 words that don't advance the story at all. So you cut it. If you're lucky, there's something in there that you can lump into another paragraph, but more often than not, it just goes to the cutting room floor.

In this case, I wanted to make a spy thingy set in the 1960's. I had some things I wanted to be in there: it's a flash fiction challenge, so I had to use the random result from Chuck Wendig's random table ("cryomancy", in this case). I wanted it to have nuclear silos and talk about the main character's background a bit. I wanted her to kick ass, explore her psionic ability in interesting ways but have it only be a small facet of what she does. I wanted it to be integral to the Cold War setting.  There were a few other small details I wanted to include, like the sledgehammer next to the safe.

That's a lot to get through in a thousand words. I had to trim four or five paragraphs. In the end, I made it in 1100, which is close enough for lawn darts and nuclear missiles, I guess.

One thing I did miss was gender cues! A commenter on Chuck's blog who, as it turned out, was responding to another post, used the wrong pronoun when referring to my protagonist. Whether or not it was actually directed at my story, it made me reread it with a fresh perspective. I realized that you could either view my nameless character as a sultry femme fatale or a really sassy and effeminate man. I'm surprisingly cool with either reading. The idea of a full novel about a sassy gay Cuban secret agent is pretty awesome.

I had a great deal of fun writing this one. I like things set in the Cold War. You can riff on any number of things: technology, politics, culture, it's all there. This could have been snappier, but I was integrating a lot of details and dealing with a dearth of space. If I were to blow it up into something longer, I think it could be pretty entertaining. The urge to get silly with some of the implications of the setting (Super Cubans Invade Hoboken) would be irresistible.

This week: something longer and back into the groove of writing non-flash-fiction/non-exercises.

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