Fast Flash Fiction: Writing Tiny, Beautiful Stories | Kathy Fish | Skillshare

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Fast Flash Fiction: Writing Tiny, Beautiful Stories

teacher avatar Kathy Fish, Writer & Teacher

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction To Fast Flash


    • 2.

      What Is Flash Fiction?


    • 3.

      Overcome Fear & Honor Your Experience


    • 4.

      The Felt Experience: Sensory Detail


    • 5.

      Free Write


    • 6.

      Write A Compelling Opening


    • 7.

      Breathless One Paragraph Flash Fiction


    • 8.

      The Title: Not Just Window Dressing


    • 9.

      Recap: What Have We Learned?


    • 10.

      What To Remember Going Forward


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About This Class

Begun in 2015 by the widely published flash fiction writer, Kathy Fish, the Fast Flash© Workshop has exploded in popularity, attracting writers from all over the globe who are passionate about the burgeoning literary form of the very (very!) short story. This one-hour mini-Fast Flash class will fire up your creative brain and inspire you to take pen to page on a daily basis.

Kathy’s positive, encouraging approach to teaching flash fiction will get you “in the zone” and quickly creating a lot of new writing. Packed with practical guidance and fun writing prompts, as well as loads of inspiration to awaken your creativity, these 10 video lessons will have you crafting a very short story that only you could write.

Throughout, Kathy will help you:

  • Tap into your memories to mine material that is uniquely your own
  • Use specific sensory detail to draw your reader in
  • Write a compelling opening sentence
  • Create a “Breathless One Paragraph” story

Plus, Kathy will provide you with a recommended reading list so that you can learn from and be inspired by the very best flash fiction being published today.

This class is for everyone with a desire to write. Whether you’re a relative beginner or an experienced writer in need of creative rejuvenation, this Introduction to Fast Flash will have you writing a fresh, surprising story now and arm you with the tips, tools, and inspiration you need to stay creative and productive beyond the class.

Let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Kathy Fish

Writer & Teacher


Kathy Fish has published five collections of short fiction, most recently Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018, from Matter Press. Her award-winning short stories, prose poems, and flash fictions have been published in Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, Denver Quarterly, Electric Literature, Guernica, and elsewhere. Her poem/flash fiction hybrid piece, “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” will appear in an upcoming edition of The Norton Reader. Additionally, this piece was selected for Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018 by Sheila Heti and by Aimee Bender for Best Small Fictions 2018. Fish's work is also featured in the 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020 editions of Best Small Fictions. She was a core faculty member fo... See full profile

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1. Introduction To Fast Flash: Hi, I'm Kathy Fish. Welcome to my skill share Class introduction to fast flash. Human beings have a desire to create and express themselves. I think one thing that keeps people from expressing themselves on the page is fear. This class is designed to help you overcome fear and to write freely and joyfully. Flash fiction is basically a story of 1000 words or fewer, but it can be as short as 100 words or even 50 words. Your project for this class will be to use a step by step process to create and write your own one paragraph. Beautiful flash fiction. Flash fiction requires the skills of brevity and consitution and of using precise language skills You learn here can be used for any type of writing that you do. Be it novel writing or memoir, short stories, essays, poetry, whatever. So I have been writing flash fiction for over 20 years, and I've been teaching for five years. I'm a faculty mentor for the Mile High M. F. A program in Denver, and I teach my own workshops and classes online. This class is going to be useful for any writers at all levels for beginners who are new to the form of flash fiction. It's also going to be great for writers who arm or experienced. It's a creative boost for anyone who finds themselves blocked or in a rut. Please follow my profile here. I'm excited to get started and thank you. 2. What Is Flash Fiction?: what is flash fiction? I believe that flash fiction is its own unique form. And as I said before, it is basically described as a story of 1000 words or fewer. But I would add that really good flash fiction must also have three essential things. Emotion, movement and residence. So by movement, I mean, that is my stand in word for plots. In a very, very short story, you may not have room to create a heavily plotted story, but at the very least, your story should exhibit meaningful change. Something should be different at the end from the beginning. And that change should be yes. Like I said, meaningful now buy resonance. I mean, you ought to aim to have something linger for the reader beyond the last word, give them something to think about or feel beyond the end of the story that stays with them . I would also add that I see flash fiction as being a very fluid form, meaning it's very, very open to playfulness and experimentation and innovation. That's probably what I like best about it. For their very first exercise in this class. All I want you to do is to read the examples of really good flash fiction published last fiction that I've included and as you read, consider how the authors were able to include emotion, movement and resonance in a very short space. Okay, now I want to leave you with a quote that I love about this form of flash fiction from Robert Shepherd. The fundamental quality of flash fiction is life. Highly compressed, highly charged, insidious, protean, sudden, alarming, tantalizing. These short shorts confer form on the small corners of chaos can do in a page what a novel does in 200. Enjoy the stories I've given you to read and thank you very much. 3. Overcome Fear & Honor Your Experience: So in this session we're going to look at overcoming fear and honoring your own unique experience. Writers tend to get blocked because they feel like they can't come up with any good ideas to write about. But you have within you a wealth of experience that you can drawn for fiction. I want to start with a quote from Flannery O Connor, and she famously says anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life . Toe last him. The rest of his days on that is very true. We tend not to honor the glory of our own lives. The things we've done, the people we've loved. We tend not to believe that that is good enough to write about. Let's look at another quote and this time from Natalie Goldberg. Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We are important, and our lives are important. Magnificent, really. And their details are worthy to be recorded. Otherwise, if they're not weaken, drop the bomb and it doesn't matter. I would like you to scan your memory for a particularly poignant or powerful moment in your life, and I'm talking moment. Okay, not a big event. So instead of saying, writing about your wedding day, you would write about the moment your father saw you and your dress for the first time, Or maybe rather then talk about the death of a loved one. You would write instead about the moment you stepped out of the hospital room and saw a small child running up and down the hall. And it was the first time that you found yourself smiling in many days. That's what I mean. A moment. Write that down, Write it down quickly, just right, the basics. And now I want you to hold on to that once you've written it, because we'll use it in the next session. So I would like to leave you with now with a quote from Robert Olen Butler. Please get out of the habit of saying you have an idea for a short story. Art does not come from ideas. Art comes from where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious from the white hot center of you. Thanks so much 4. The Felt Experience: Sensory Detail: So in this session, we're going to talk about the importance of sensory detail. This is something that I feel is very important. And it's something I harp upon in all my writing classes in your writing, in your stories, you really want to engage your reader. But how to go about this? The best way to do it is to include a great deal of sensory detail in your stories. You've probably heard the term show Don't tell. What does that mean? Let's look for a moment at the difference between showing and telling in your stories. First of all, showing is very rich and immersive, whereas telling is has a flat quality to it. It is just the facts showing gives your reader of felt experience telling actually just gives your reader the feeling of a lecture. Showing creates a film in your reader's mind, whereas telling feels more like the voiceover. So this is how you make your writing much more vivid. You show versus tell now let's look a little bit more at sensory detail. Specifically, sensory detail has the way of really immersing your reader engaging. Your reader say you're writing about a hot summer day in a child has a Popsicle and the Popsicle starts to melt right down the child's arm, and it's sticky. When the reader encounters that, they actually feel that they actually remember those types of things. So that's a way to really give you a reader. Ah, felt experience aimed to always and you're right and give you a reader something to see or taste or smell or touch. Or here for this session. What I want you to do. What you will need is five sheets of paper and a pen. I want you to at the top of each sheet of paper, write down one of the senses so one sheet of paper will have site ones. She will have sound and so forth. Now look at that moment piece that you wrote in the last session. Try to identify what the main emotion waas in that moment. Was it joy? Was it sorrow? Was it hatred, jealousy, humiliation. Whatever that emotion Waas put it in the center of your page. Now for each page, I want you to branch out from that central emotion and find whatever sensory detail you can associate with that emotion for example, would be if you your motion on the page is joy and it is the smell page. One thing you can come up with would be the smell of your grandmother's cookies baking on Christmas morning and so forth, so were quickly for about 20 minutes on this and try to fill each page with the senses. You're going to hold on to this to use in our next session. Thanks so much. 5. Free Write: OK, now it's time to do a free right. This is a very useful tool. Free writing is a very useful tool as a means of pre writing your way into finding new ideas for short story writing. I believe the best ideas come in the act of writing and not before. What I want you to do is take the five pages of your mind mapping exercise from the previous lesson. Look those over and search out the details that seem to have the most power to them or the ones that evoke the strongest emotion in you. Circle those now take pen to page preferably or you can go to your computer and I want to just to begin writing, incorporating these details right as quickly as you can and without judgment, without stopping. Try not to re read or edit or fix or fuss anything here. What I want you to do is just keep incorporating those strong sensory details, and you may find yourself starting to diverge from the original moment that you wrote about , and that's perfectly fine. And if you come up with more sensory details in the act of writing, that's fine to just write quickly. And also remember what I said about specific details. Remember that I said not flower but days. Okay, so try to keep this to three or four pages if you can. And also don't give it a title quite yet. You'll want to save this for next session, but feel perfectly free to share your free rights with your fellow classmates. Thanks so much. 6. Write A Compelling Opening: Okay, now we're looking at the all important flash fiction opening. I can't stress enough how important it is to really write an engaging opening sentence or sentences. This is your invitation to the reader. This is you enticing the reader to continue reading. Here are some tips and some guidelines for writing a compelling flash fiction opening. You may not be able to accomplish each and every one of these in your first few sentences, but it's good to aim for us many as possible. So first you want to ground your reader in time, place and character. Give us that sense of grounding, where we know we know where we're at and we're ready for the rest of the story. Another thing to do in the opening is to show or hint at at least some sense of trouble, or that something is slightly off. You can also answer the question. The very important question. What does your character want? Kurt Vonnegut famously said that it's important to always give the character something that they want, even if it's just a glass of water again, be sure to include strong sensory detail in your opening as that will engage the reader and draw them in. Another thing you can do with your opening is to establish an interesting and compelling narrative voice, the type of voice that makes you lean in and want. Want to hear more of this story? You could also use your opening to set the tone for your story. All right, those are some tips and guidelines for writing a really good flash fiction opening. I've also got some examples for you. Here's one. This is the year of Beautiful Trees. Tina May Hall. What a simple sentence, but not the kind of sentence you hear every day. There's something a little strange at work there, and I know that immediately. I want to read the rest of that story and find out what the year beautiful trees, Waas. Here's another one. It wasn't until lightning struck that Makayla realized she had married an idiot. That's from Jennifer Peroni. It's literally beginning with a shock, and it's funny and it's weird and I love it. I want to read the rest of that. There's one more from the beginning. I am all out in opposition against the purchase of the dog Irving, because I know he will die, and I've had too much of dogs dying in my life already to this point. While I love that one, it's got such a compelling narrative voice, and it really hints at underlying sadness or loss. I really want to hear the rest of that story. So what I wanted to do now is to go back to your free right from the last session. I want you to read it again, and I want you to read it out loud. Even I want you to look and listen for the true beginning of the story, often times in free rights or first drafts, we take a while to get going. We are telling the story to ourselves, finding our way in, and sometimes there's a bit of throat clearing that goes on. Read and listen and find the point where the story really feels like it's beginning. Now. Here you might want to go back to the tips that I gave you for writing a compelling flash fiction opening Rewrite or find that opening sentence or sentences. Now hold on to this is will use it again in the next session, but go ahead and feel free to share with your classmates your new opening sentences. Thanks so much 7. Breathless One Paragraph Flash Fiction: So the breathless one paragraph What is it? We're going to talk about this particular form and what it does especially, is one paragraph of prose that tells a complete story and also includes emotion, movement and residence. We call from before that, I said, that movement is a sense of meaningful change or an important shift in the story. I also recall that in terms of resonance, you want the story to linger in the reader's mind or heart beyond the last word. Now importantly, there is no white space. There's it's all one paragraph. There's no paragraph breaks. The story comes at the reader all in one rush. There's no opportunity for the reader to stop and ponder, so it's all up in the reader's face, and that tends to create a sense of urgency around the storytelling. Ah, the reader feels it as well for this session, then we have actually to exercise is first. I want you to read the examples of breathless flash fiction published examples on and have a look at how the form is done. Pay attention, especially to how the authors managed to include emotion, movement and resonance in such a short space. Pay attention also to the sense of urgency that you feel is a reader. No, now is your chance to write your own breathless flash fiction. What you're going to do is take that new opening that you wrote in the last session the new sentence or sentences. I want you to pull those out and just just those sentences the opening, and put that into onto a new sheet of paper or onto a blank document. If you're using your computer, starting with that and going forward, I want you to quickly quickly rewrite the story from memory. Importantly, you if you write something from memory, anything that's boring or unnecessary tends to follow by the way side. So it's a very good practice. Keep in mind the urgency that you want to create. Keep in mind that you're writing towards an ending that you're writing towards an ending that will resonate. I would try to keep this short, keep it to three or four pages of 500 words at the most if you can. And don't give this a title just yet. We're going to work on that later, but what I want you to do now is to right this breathlessly and write with abandon, allow whatever comes and then hold on to that because we're going to continue to work on it . And please absolutely share your breathless paragraphs with your classmates. Thank you very much. 8. The Title: Not Just Window Dressing : Okay, Now you have your beautiful, breathless one paragraph flash fiction in hand. Congratulations. But you're not done yet. The story is not done yet. You need to add a great title to this. I can't stress enough how important really good title is for your flash fiction. For any writing that you do, it is the very first thing that your reader sees. It's the very first thing that an editor sees. It's a real opportunity to add beauty and meaning to your story. So let's look at some examples of some really terrific flash fiction titles. Oh, darling, I'm in the Garden by Diane Williams Last Inspection of Mount Vernon by George Washington Gentleman Farmer by Karen Craig Oh, Weird Pig by Robert Long Foreman. That's the story I want to read. The exact coordinates of Eleanor by Kathleen Jones. This one's probably my favorite. I will use this story to tell another story by Ashley Hudson and The Truth About Alaskan Rivers By Laurie Sambal Brody. Those air such fresh, original and compelling titles. I definitely want to read the stories that go with those now I have for you a few tips and guidelines for finding a great title for your own stories, and I'll also include This is something that you can refer to print out and use in the future as well. Before you do anything, though, please try to not write a title that's too on the nose or obvious or boring. One thing you can do to make to find a great title for your story is to pull a sentence or a fragment of a sentence that's especially strong or compelling or beautiful. Pull that off out of the story. Leave it in the story but used that peace for your title. If the setting is important in your story, sometimes just a place name makes for a very compelling title, as in Wine Zberg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Likewise, if your story seems character driven, focusing on one strong character, the name of the character can make a good title. In that case, make sure that the name is not a boring one like Bob. Sometimes you can, uh, this is fun to do. You can imagine something that your main character might say that is not there in the story , and that could be a title, and that will carry forward the voice of the story as well. I have a story called another story about me in some guy, which also kind of carries forth the voice of that piece. Here's something that's kind of interesting, but I I've used it a few times when I'm titling my flash fiction. Consider taking out the last sentence of your story and putting it up to the top in making that the title of your story. It can do some really interesting things for your story. Can. It can actually lend a new meaning. And it's a sort of thing. The reader gets to the end and refers back to that. That title. It's kind of fun. Additionally, any object or, um, image in the story that's particularly strong and resonant that can be that could make for a very good title. A swell. Okay, so here's what I want you to do. For today's lesson. Go back to your breathless one paragraph and read it and read it out loud. Really hear your story using the tips that I've given you come up with three possible titles for your story, and then what I want you to do is to share your story and your three titles with your classmates there, you can give each other feedback on the titles. You can say which title felt the strongest to you. You can say which title if I'd never seen it before, would make me most want to read the story. It's also perfectly OK to suggest brand new titles as well. So I really want you to have fun with this, uh, this exercise and help each other out and, um, enjoy it. Thank you. 9. Recap: What Have We Learned?: all right, you have completed a beautiful, complete, tiny, breathless flash fiction, and I hope you were able to find just the right title for it as well. Congratulations. So, for this session, let's recap what we've learned about this literary form called flash fiction. Flash fiction is a story of 1000 words or fewer. Ideally, it demonstrates emotion, movement and residence. We've also learned that strong sensory detail is very important for all your writing and specific detail is important as well. The breathless one paragraph form a flash is great when you want to convey, Ah, very strong story, a very urgent story that must be told quickly. And we learned, very importantly, that a strong opening and a great title are absolutely vital for all writing, but most especially for flash fiction, where you have very little room to play around with. I hope you enjoyed learning about flash fiction. It's my obviously my favorite form of all 10. What To Remember Going Forward: I'd like to first in this last session, Recap the basics of the free right exercise. This is a profoundly useful tool for your writing. I want you to use it every time you find yourself in front of a blank page or in front of a , um, a blank screen whenever you just are set to write. But you have no idea how to begin. So let's look at the basics of the free right. Set a timer for 10 minutes and right straight through. Type straight through without stopping. Now the more you do this, the longer you'll be able to do it. Think of it as building your writerly muscles. Resist any urge to stop or to re read or edit, fixed or fuss any of on any of it. I want you to write with abandon and without judgment, Uh, and remember that your seventh grade English teacher is nowhere in sight now. Importantly, if it starts to feel scary as you're writing, if you feel some resistance to what you're writing, that's your clue that you need to actually keep going power through. That's where you're getting to the good stuff. Okay, so in this class. We have learned about flash fiction. We've learned how to create a breathless one paragraph flash fiction, But we've also learned about writing and creativity and how to get past fear. So let's recap what we have learned and what I really want you to remember. As you go forward from this class, remember that the specific details of your life, your joys and your sorrows, your dreams and experiences and that is your creative Potter. That is your gold. It's valuable and worthy of creative expression. Please do use it. Also, I want you to remember that you needed come to writing already with a great idea or any idea at all. Remember that ideas can come from the active writing itself. I believe, actually, the best ideas come from the act of writing itself. I would like you to truck keep trying the pre writing and the free writing and the mind mapping exercises that you learned in this class going forward, these air really important for pulling out new ideas. And that's where your deepest, most resident work will come from. The unconscious that Robert Olen Butler spoke of in the quote I shared with you Okay, So finally, I would like to share some lovely and practical advice from poet James Kenyon. And it goes like this. Be a good steward of your gifts, protect your time danger in her life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be yourself is often as you can walk. So please do go ahead and share your your brand new stories with your great titles with each other. It's been such a pleasure working with you. Thanks so much for taking introduction to Fast Flash.