Aimee Parkison’s blog, ‘Flash Fiction: saying the unsayable’, https://www.freewordcentre.com/blog/2016/02/a-parkison/ got me thinking because her first tip (of twenty) is to collect words. Your lists of words should drive the flash fiction. She says, ‘Let the language guide you. Don’t plot. Just trust in your collected words and see where they take you.’ If you have ever done a workshop with Simon or me, you will know that we generally start by writing down words and sharing them in the group. The focus on individual words and then how they rub shoulders with each other is always pleasurable and intriguing. I was interested to see how starting with a bigger collection of words might work. As someone who finds the notion of plot a challenge, the idea of letting the language lead was appealing.
I decided to explore the possibilities of the advice at this week’s Writing Teachers meeting at UEA. It seemed good timing because many of these teachers enter their pupils for the Radio 2 500 Words competition and some of them are judges for it. I am sure you know about it, but if not, there is a good website which explains how to enter and is well-resourced with ideas, inspiration and tips for writing. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00rfvk1.
We began by writing a list of 20 words with prompts for each one so that we had a good bank to start with and shared five of these each around the group. Before we started writing, we looked at some of the advice given by David Gaffey in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/14/how-to-write-flash-fiction, noticing especially: ‘Start in the middle....Make sure the ending isn’t at the end......make your last line ring like a bell.‘ Then we were off, writing for a five minute blast. We shared one sentence each, chosen from our writing, which whetted out appetites for more and so we went for another five minute splurge. Someone asked for a sentence starter this time and I just happened to have the first line of a poem I had seen at the Poetry Library www.poetrylibrary.org.uk the week before: ‘You should never stick your fingers into....’
Here’s one from Emily:
You should never stick your fingers...
in someone else's ear,
down the plug hole,
under an armpit that's not your own,
inside little boys' pockets
We all found that the combination of a list of words and the five minute sprint brought a kind of surreal energy to the writing.....though I have to say Freud was also mentioned. Certainly, there was an exhilaration in the air; that kind of surprised pleasure in writing freely, without fronted adverbial anxiety. After a cup of tea, (ha ha!) we did get on to full stops and capital letters, and to the Key Stage 2 exemplification for writing. But that really is another story.
As he zoomed down the hill, tucked tight into his saddle, he heard the air whizz past his ears and tug at his cape. It was now chucking it down and the whip of the laces tying his cape around his plump shoulders stung his cheeks.
Pig only noticed the sausages on the passenger seat when he was nearly at Cleckheaton, just past that chip shop on the right, Dogger’s Plaice. Butcher’s finest. Coarse cut pork. He tapped his trotter on the steering wheel and whistled through his teeth. Coarse cut. Carefully, he changed gear as the van rolled down Collops Hill. The bastards, he thought, turning neatly into the yard at he back of Curl Up and Dye. He really had been under the impression he was delivering to a hairdresser’s.
NWP research director