31 May 2009 - 2:30 pm

Flashing fiction

Back in February, I entered the Two Sentence Story competition. I didn’t get anywhere in it, but it was an interesting exercise and I’m glad that I entered. A two-sentence story is curious beast – how do you get a whole story across in just that amount of space, without cheating? (By cheating, I mean replacing what should be full stops with commas and having two huge, run-on, nightmare sentences).

The thing I found most challenging was to put plot in there and not just present a situation. For me, that’s the difference between a snapshot and a story. 

When I looked back over my entries for the competition, I thought that my third entry was closer to a situation than a true story:

Planting the Seed

Sitting awkwardly and gripping the tools, there is a moment of reverence before the act and a whispered prayer for fertility.

In an uncomfortable moment, she can’t help but wonder if people will be able to tell that the baby’s father was a turkey baster.

(I admit, I was going more for the humour in that.)

I think this one was closer to having a plot, though the middle is wide and gaping. It could be filled with many different things, but I think part of the punch is that it isn’t specific:


Attention is a click of heels, perfect creases, heads lifted, jaws set, and chests filled proudly with the hope of doing something good and right.

Four months later, heels click again, heads lift and jaws set as we wait for the gun salute in much shorter lines.

My favourite is still the first one that I wrote for the competition. I can’t decide if it’s more situation than story; I have a story for it sneaking around in the back of my head, and it’s hard to say how much of that came through. It was one of those pieces that just gelled when I wrote it, and I always love when that happens.

Snow Love

I have the tears of a snowman at the kiss of your sun, welcoming your fire with a scarf slipping askew.

When you go, I will be the space left behind, warmed but empty.

When I took this to my writing group to do an exercise on writing stories this way, one of my writers asked me if the last phrase should be switched around – empty but warmed. I hadn’t even thought about it, but I think I like it the way it is; that downturn at the end feels right to me. There’s the notion that there is no love (s’no love! get it?) in this self-destructive relationship, and the narrator knows it.

I like this form – it’s fun to play with. Maybe I’ll do some more soon, practice with it a bit. Even just writing about it like this is giving me ideas. Maybe later, when my to-do list is a bit shorter.

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