Spring SAVY 2015, Week 1 – Fiction in a Flash (5th/6th Grade)
Flash Fiction: The 100-Yard Dash of Creative Writing
What a great start to Spring SAVY 2015! Our young writers dove right in to “Fiction In a Flash.” This week, we talked about the different approach writers take to flash fiction stories by comparing writing to running a race. Novelists are like marathon runners: they may take a slower start to their story, pacing themselves as they introduce characters, establish setting, and develop the plot. Flash fiction writers are like sprinters: they have to set up all their story elements right out of the gate, and keep the momentum going until the end. And they have to create a narrative arc: a sense of rising action and climax that create change for the character.
We talked about how even the shortest stories show a developed narrative arc, often by hinting at a larger, untold story. To demonstrate this, we looked at several six-word stories, a form first made popular by Ernest Hemingway and more recently by writers on the social media site Twitter. Students identified the arc suggested by stories such as: “Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.” or “Epitaph: he shouldn’t have fed it.” Then they worked in groups to craft their own six-word stories, including:
“Dog meets cat. Dog gets revenge.”
“Walked down alley. God help me.”
“Builds time machine. Travels back. Rips continuum.”
We then read a slightly longer flash fiction story by Sandra Cisneros, called “Eleven.” In this story, the author uses a key moment—a teacher forcing the main character to put on a stinky, smelly sweater that isn’t hers— to demonstrate larger conflicts facing the main character. We’ll be talking more about this technique of using key moments next week.
We ended the class by practicing developing our own characters and conflicts by starting with very basic information. Students drew slips of paper with character age, gender, setting and motivation, and brainstormed full histories and conflicts for their characters. Some students may want to use the ideas they came up with in this activity on future SAVY Saturdays, as they develop their own flash fiction stories.