Change the Ending – advice on writing flash fiction

Thanks to everyone who’s got in touch about Change the Ending flash fiction project, and to any randomly curious or interested observers with something to say or a germ of an idea. Many of the contributors so far are new to flash fiction and have asked for some tips on getting going. Hope this is helpful and look forward to reading more stories.

Where to start?

Like life, local government and public services are complicated. The issues are like a mountain range covering huge territory. The terrain can be rocky, but the views from the top can be beautiful. Don’t try and give us the whole picture; for this project, think about what you’d like to see.

Choose a small idea inside a big one.

It might come from a surprising conversation (in a meeting even??!) or a part of a story you’ve heard, a few words or notions. Take these and stretch them, turn them upside down, don’t go with the obvious – make it different! Create a character that intrigues you, whose voice is unusual, or tap into a reaction or emotion you’ve felt. Explore a possibility and hook your reader in with something small, immediate and intimate.

Write a beginning, middle and end – then start in the middle.

Get to the heart of the story asap. When you write your story, don’t take two pages to explain all the pre-story. Find a way to set it up in the first sentence or two (and use the title even – sweat the title is a good tip,), then crack on with the rest of the tale. The reader can fill in the blanks. You don’t have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character. Use one powerful image or a specific small descriptor – it can tell as much about a character as several paragraphs of description.

Make sure the ending isn’t at the end.

This is a great tip from David Gaffney: Try to place the end of the story (what changed/what’s the denouement) in the middle! Then allow the reader time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions the characters have taken. Use the next few paragraphs to take the reader on a journey below the surface.

Leave your reader wanting more/thinking/asking questions

This is a challenge, but it’s what Change the Ending is about. Try to leave the reader with something that keeps them thinking after the story has finished. The last line of a story shouldn’t complete the story. If it can take us somewhere new, somewhere we can continue to think about the ideas in the story and wonder what it all meant – especially for local government and the future of public services – then you’ve cracked it.

Practicalities

Stick to one point of view, stick to one tense, check your spelling and grammar (don’t rely on spell checker.) You don’t have to reach the word count. If your piece naturally ends at 198 and the word limit is 350, that’s fine.

Read it out loud

Hearing your story really helps. You’ll get a better sense of what sounds right and how it flows.

Hope that helps and enjoy being creative

Dawn 

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