Welcome to Flash Points. Every Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope (it slices, it dices, it even makes julienne fries) and talk about it right in front of its face, dragon style. What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? What about this particular piece really works? Let the discussion begin!
Prompt: orchard ladder
Word limit: 100 exactly
Today’s chosen flash piece: The Philosophical Carpenter, by Fraser McFraze
Ain’t much to a ladder, is there?
No, I don’t mean anything by it, I suppose. Just—well, a little lumber, load of plain rungs, a few nails and see here, what the hands of man have made!
I tell you, simple thing like a ladder but reaching so high up there, sky all blue like that, it’s almost like there’s —well, I dunno. It just makes me feel there’s meaning to life, you know?
Well, looks like it’s about time. I’ll hold it steady down here, like that, and you’d best be heading on up.
Take your noose, now.
Flash Points welcomes Fraser back into the lab (hiya, Fraze!). In the comments of this week’s contest, he and others broached an interesting topic: what is the nature of flash? With economy of words comes a forced economy of plot and character as well; just how much can be achieved in the narrow confines of flash? While it’s true flash often relies on a twist, that final line which turns a story on its head, the best pieces pull off so much more.
This week I’d love to invite y’all into the lab with me. We can use Fraser’s story above as a starting point, but I welcome your thoughts. How do you approach flash fiction? Do you focus on character (and character growth—is that even possible)? Plot? the twist? setting? Or are you, like an impressionist, working to convey an emotion or state of mind?
The Philosophical Carpenter certainly contains many of these elements. The story is presented in apostrophe, with an implied, silent listener. We have a single, clear voice, that of a reasonably friendly, chatty workman who takes advantage of his captive audience and mindless labor to ponder deeper things. But only for a moment! because duty calls. And ohhh is the twist ever a good (though gruesome) one, that the seemingly benign task and workman… aren’t.
Finally, in this scene our protagonist considers truth beyond himself but shrugs it off. That act, too, adds to our horror of what is really happening in this scene. He could have grown, could have changed, perhaps, but chooses not to. This character’s confrontation and ultimate refusal to consider something larger adds a layer of depth to the story that takes it beyond a really cool twist and creative dialogue. Good. Stuff.
This is the part where you jump in. Here are the questions on the table: How do you approach flash fiction? Do you focus on character/character growth? Plot? the twist? setting? Or do you attempt to simply paint an emotion or state of mind?