Flash! Future: Short Story Writing

WE’RE BAAAAACK with another Flash! Future! Last week it was my privilege chattering about #VSS365 and its ever-growing roster of writers. Communities like #VSS365—and like the vibrant if temporary autumn breeze community you’re soldering together here at Fire&Ice—are a genuine gift to readers and writers alike. Your stories challenge, inspire, shred, and enliven, sometimes all at once. As for myself, I can’t tell you how many times the way you’ve painted your worlds, or breathed life into your characters, or sewn in a clever twist, or pirouetted across rich, poetic detail, has taught me what writing can be.

It reminds me of something Mary Robinette Kowal, the multi-Hugo-award-winning short story wizard, said about short form writing:

Writing is fractal. Once you understand how something works at one length, you can apply it to other lengths as long as you understand the principles involved.

The truth is there is much to be learned from flash and microfiction, not only for the tiny power-beasts the forms are themselves, but for what they can also show us about writing longer forms. So I thought it would be fun today to share with you a hands-on guest lecture Kowal gave last semester on short story writing. In it she elaborates on her celebrated MICE quotient approach (milieu, idea, character, event) at the same time she challenges us, the viewers, to write along with a fresh piece of flash.

Are you game?? If so, please pick up a pen and dive into this lecture with me. And I welcome you, if you’re so inclined, to share your thoughts on Kowal’s lesson OR!!! if you dare!!! share your resultant story in the comments. May Kowal’s words spark a bonfire of ideas for you, as your own words have so often done for me. Thank you. ♥


Mary Robinette Kowal


3 thoughts on “Flash! Future: Short Story Writing

  1. Okay, I played along…but the result is a dog’s breakfast…a fun instructor, though…

    Space Ginch

    Conked out for a few milliseconds on the hillside, I came to just in time to see him/her/it pull down my pants and fondle my jockey shorts.
    Martian, Venusian, whatever, him/her/it reeked of burnt tar and seemed taken by cotton briefs.
    I tried to explain that touching earthlings in a familiar way was not appropriate, but my west coaster dialect probably struck him/her/it as gobbledygook.
    Still, I was a linguist and though I had never had a conversation with aliens, I did have his/her/it’s attention.
    I desperately wanted to keep my earthly delights covered.
    I couldn’t read his/her/it’s expression very well.
    There wasn’t a mouth and his/her/its eyeball seemed more like a tongue.
    As he/she/it fiddled with the elastic of my protective underwear, I stuck my thumbs into the band and lifted the ginch up more securely.
    This seemed to aggravate the creature and he/she/it slammed me roughly back onto the ground.
    Though covered in grass stains and dust and aching from the slam, I proffered a smile. Words were failing me, but I reasoned that a banter less smile might serve to temper the critters mood.
    He/she/it seemed unimpressed with the smile and swiftly reached down, touching my reproductive gizmo through the material. He/she/it let out a sigh, a potent smelly sign and stood back in what seemed a less aggressive stance.
    Had he/she/it reached a level of comfort with me?
    Whatever he/she/it was experiencing, he/she/it turned around and ambled away into the dark.
    I was alone.
    .

    249 painfully awkward words…
    @billmelaterplea

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jockeying for Position

    The taste of dirt defeat still on his tongue, Frankie tried to place his glass of bourbon on the coaster, but missed, falling and falling with no sound, as if into a wormhole.

    As he reached for the glass, wanting one more sip for a rinse, Frankie also began falling and falling, waiting for that thrum of the hooves to signal the start, or stop. It never came.

    Frankie lost sight of his room, with trophies from bygone years when he still had what it took. He still had the leather reins in his non-drinking hand, and flung the reins into the void, hoping to grab anything. Instead, the reins looped back around his neck, gagging him. As his fall continued, oxygen also left his body, seeming to float above and taunt his descent.

    No end in sight, and his throat throbbing against the leather, Frankie whistled with his last remnants of oxygen. His whistle pierced the void. And then with a jerk like the end of a roller coaster, he landed with a thud on his horse, Scout. Scout neighed, and then recognizing Frankie’s bourbon scent, relaxed and stood at attention, waiting. Frankie lifted the reins off his throat, dropping them by Scout’s hooves, gasping.

    Frankie stepped off of Scout, and was back at his recliner with his trophies. Shards of his bourbon glass were on the floor. He looked up at Scout’s ashes on the mantle, and swept the glass into the trash, whispering, “Good boy,” to Scout.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Writers: Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? – Milam's Musings

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