Poor Little Rebel Girl
Writing Flash Fiction
Stephen King says:
These days it seems everything wants to be a novel, and every novel wants to be approximately four thousand pages long. A fair number of critics have mentioned this, and usually not favourably…I have been accused of overwriting. In some cases the criticisms have merit; In others they are just the ill-tempered yappings of men and women who have accepted the literary anorexia of the last thirty years with a puzzling lack of discussion and consent.
Stephen King taken from the introduction to Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Writing Flash Fiction...Not as Easy as You Think
Many people think that writing a flash fiction (or micro fiction, or a short, short story…) must be easy. After all, they are short. The clue is in the name, isn’t it?
Of course, the reality could not be further from the truth. The very fact that it is short is what makes flash fiction such a difficult format to do well. When you reduce the amount of words it means that the story has to be tight. Every sentence, every syllable, has to justify itself. When you are writing longer formats you might get away with a misplaced line, or maybe even a pointless paragraph. Over writing can sometimes be forgiven. That has even more truth when you are firmly established as a writer. Stephen King himself acknowledged that SOME of the accusations of over-writing thrown at him over the years have been fair, and more so once his selling power outstripped the nerve of editors.
In flash fiction there is nowhere to hide. The literary anorexia that King is talking of absolutely has its home in flash fiction. When you only have a few hundred words (in the fiction below I allowed myself the luxury of two hundred and fifty words) you cannot waste fifty words describing a sunset. Unless, of course, it is absolutely germane to the story you are telling.
Stephen King...What He Looks Like
David Bowie - Rebel Rebel Original Video
Writing The Flash
The short story below started off as a little bit of a dig at people being a fashionable rebel, that is, being a rebel for popularity, after I heard the David Bowie song Rebel, Rebel on the radio. Youth culture has always had an element of rebellion, and there have always been people who follow the fashions. Who can ever forget the way the punk movement was subverted by the catch (and enjoyable) punk-pop of Green Day.
My motivation for writing the story changed when I thought about the life of my character, and I realised that her motivations for rebelling were central to her life, not some fad, and the story evolved to become an exploration of those reasons.
I set myself the goal of writing a full story with the complexities of a novel and compressing it into a flash fiction (I was not as ambitious as Ernest Hemingway when he wrote a six word flash which can be seen in my earlier Hub about flash fiction), but I managed after many longs hours of work, and many, many redrafts, to compress the story down while still keeping it readable and, hopefully, engaging to readers.
I strongly suspect I still haven’t finished with this story yet. There is still room to tighten the story and polish it until it gleams (although I think it needs to keep a few jagged edges – read it and I think you will see why).
So without further ado, may I present to you Poor Little Rebel Girl, a flash fiction by me.
Poor Little Rebel Girl
It could have been different if he had wanted to really look each time he delivered a fresh pile of ever darker clothes into his daughters’ room.
A square of old pink paint stands out on the black walls where a picture has been knocked off. He still sees posters of the latest boy-band hanging on the walls, the dark depths of which still give off a faint solvent air, but which are now covered by scenes from old slasher films. A lone shelf is filled with half torn books and a grubby stuffed bear smeared in mascara. The broken frame lies in a heap by the door, propped up by heavily scuffed boots and last week’s discarded clothes.
He places the clean clothes onto the one clear space available. Only a small pile of rust-edged broken glass, meticulously gathered from the fallen frame, sullies the otherwise barren desk.
He pauses before leaving to tidy the bed and disturbs a photo that lies under the stale, flat pillow. He picks it up and remembers when it was taken; his wife and daughter laughing as they blew out the all the candles on their last joint birthday cake. Their daughter was wearing a bright red bandana to copy her mother. His wife’s honest smile was already wilting.
He places the picture back under the pillow, careful not to crush it on the studded collar and chain that he doesn’t see, and quietly leaves the room.