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26 March 2022

Posted by Beth McKeeman

A Flash Of Inspiration

Junior - 12 Young - 8

Both groups this week were exploring short form prose. For the Junior Writers this was with a maximum of 500 words for the Wilbur Smith Author of Tomorrow competition. For the Young Writers we took part in a virtual flash fiction festival where we were limited to 300 words.

The Junior Writers used BBC Short Stories to guide us as we looked at condensed adventure narratives. This ranged from escaping fruit in The Grocery Shop Breakout by Henry C, to a search for a missing twin in a treacherous landscape in The Odd Sock by Amelia W, to the perils of war in The Game of Life by Gia M.

In all of these, the writers took an inanimate object and gave it life and ambition through personification. We had the choice to personify objects or to use animals or humans as we created a mind map of characters and settings.

Our characters tended to be food themed, a favourite topic within the group generally, with ice creams featuring in multiple stories, and a whole variety of animals such as cats, dolphins and horses.

Hopefully, we will see these go far in the competition just like Arsh A’s did last year when he got a commendation. The deadline is 22nd April and you can enter here (anyone up to age 18, check the word count for the different ages).

Jumping in with no transition as any good flash should, in Young Writers Alison Woodhouse Zoomed in to give us an introduction to flash fiction and provide us with a prompt to work on until the 9th April.

We used the flash piece Little Things I Hug Huge by Sudha Balagopal to illustrate her points.

Alison describes flash as a novel being a whole house, a novella or short story being a room and flash fiction looking through the keyhole into that room. The detail you see should give a sense to a wider room and the reader should be able to interpret a wider room than what they can see.
In Little Things, we don’t see the authors relationship with her father, but the audience can extrapolate it from what is said.

In an even more distilled way, perhaps the most famous piece of flash, coincidentally also about shoes, is Ernest Hemmingway’s ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ which the reader is left to conclude why, in all likelihood a tragedy in six words.

Six words is of course very minimalistic but relates to another piece of advice Alison gave: don’t waste words that aren’t at the heart of your story. You need to make sure that with such a limited word count every one counts, every image deserves its place, and what you don’t say is just as important as what you do. Those six, a hundred, three hundred words can take draft, after draft, after draft to get right, cutting and pruning until everything works and fits the word count you might have - so don’t worry if you go too long at first.

The challenge Alison set was to use an object, like the shoes, as the focal point of a piece of flash, to tell a story.

Word-for-word the challenge is: 300 words

Choose an object that means a lot to you.

Use it to structure a flash story - perhaps with a cluster of memories around the object or you can project forward to your adult life (what happens to the object - do you pass it on to someone else or lose it or break it?)

We look forward to seeing all the flashes of inspiration you have.

Mayflower Young Writers taking part in the Flash Fiction Festival.

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