How to Write Flash Fiction Easily (Part 2)

3. Dramatic Conflict

A short story must be dramatic. It must be like a play on the stage, or a movie, or a television play. When we go to a movie, we don’t expect the writer to come out on the stage and tell us about everything that happens; we want to see it actually happen. So, too, with the short story. We don’t expect or want the writer to start out simply by saying, “Once upon a time…,” and then tell us everything. We want him to show something as it is happening. We want to involve ourselves in what is going on rather than merely hear about what’s going on. Therefore, the story must appeal to the emotions of the reader, his feelings of joy and sorrow, pity, fear, anger. It must appeal to his senses; it must make him feel.

Each person has a desire to live life as fully as possible - to do and see many things or hear about read of many things. Such a life is filled with conflicts, with problems, with struggles, with dilemmas. Such a life becomes an exciting life, for life itself is a problem-solving business. What, then, provides the dramatic conflict in a short story? Anything form life can: a child stealing clothes from a wealthy friend, a man who can’t swim well saving a drowning child, a mother concerned over an unattractive daughter – any conflict in life can be the subject of a short story. Dramatic conflict, then, is what gets the readers invoved emotionally in what is happening.

For convenience, we place the dramatic conflicts that are found in short stories in three categories:

* First is the physical or elemental conflict. Here we usually find a man in conflict with climbing a mountain, a woman fighting to survive in a cyclone, a man fighting an army of ants on his plantation. The principal of this kind of this story is almost wholly to the emotions of the reader.

* The second type of dramatic conflict is social conflict. In this type, the struggle is of one person agaisnt another: two women seeking to marry the same man, two men competing for a job, a detective pitied agaisnt a criminal, a child in conflict with his parents.

* The third type of conflict is Internal or Psychological Conflict. Here we find a man struggling agaisnt himself, his conscience, his guilt, or simply trying to decide what he’s going to do. In such a story we may see an honest but poor bank employee fighting the temptation to steal from his bank, a woman struggling with the consequences of a lie she’s told, or an unwed pregnant girl trying to decide whether to have an abortion, place her child up for adoption, or raise him alone.

Certainly, no single one of these conflicts need be the only conflict in a story. Whatever the conflict, or however basic conflicts may be combined, the principal appeal should be the emotions of the reader.

Three questions must be proposed in finding out the conflicts of a short story:

* What is the basic conflict in the story?
* What other kinds of conflict are found? Give examples.
* Is the conflict settled? How? What part of the story shows this?

4. Theme

A short story must have a purpose. It should make the reader think. Most short stories have a theme, something we might call “the message” or “the moral” of the story. Sometimes this theme is all but stated in the story. At the other times it is only suggested. At times, though, the theme is not quiet so easily seen. A short story is an experience – the reader imagines himself living it – and the theme that can be drawn out may depend on a particular character or situation or time in a story. The reader is not the character in the story; he must imagine himself in a character’s place. The theme, then, may come from the whole story as the reader lives through it, and because each of us is different, as we experience the story each of may draw from it a different theme, a different meaning.

Here are some questions as the guidance for us to look a theme in a story:

* Is the theme directly stated in the story? If so, what is it?
* Is the theme hinted at or suggested at some point in the story? Where? What is it?
* Does the whole story seem to suggest the theme? If so, what might the theme be?

5. Plot

Probably the most popular kind of story is the one that emphasizes action, and plot is the action of a story. In an action story we are concerned chiefly with what happens. Most television programs, movies, and adventure magazines present action stories. Cowboy stories, detective stories, and spy stories are the best examples.

Plot is planned by the author. The story moves from a beginning through a series of events to a climax or turning point, and then to a logical end. The inciting forces are those statements or happenings that excite the reader and are part of the bulid-up of the story.

The inciting forces are part of the rising action that leads up to a climax, a point where the action is as at its peak – most intense, or most dramatic – and then falls off to reveal what happens in the end.

Moreover, such a story has a “closed” plot. In a closed plot the author resolves or concludes the story for the reader: “…and they lived happily ever after, or “…the murderer was convicted and hanged.” In an “open” plot the story frequently ends at the climax, and the reader is left to decide what he thinks the resolution or outcome of the story might be.

Certainly, a story need not follow this exact order, but even when it doesn’t, most of these elements of plot will be in it. A story can start at the end. It may be opened by presenting special incidents, and then it may go back to show us what led up to his death. It may start with the resolution or the outcome of the climax by showing us those particular incidents, and then flash back to show what led to them. In short, the story may start at any point, but the other parts will probably fit in to give the give story unity.

6. Characterization

Charcterization is the depicting of clear images of a person. It really doesn’t matter who or what the characters are, so long as we can identify ourselves with them.

There two methods of characterization: the dramatic and the analytic. In the dramatic, we form our opinions of the characters from what they do and say, from their environment, and from what others character think of them. In the analytic method, the author comments upon the characters, explaining their motives, their appearance, and their thoughts.

Here are some fundamental questions for recognizing the characters in a story:

* Who is the “hero”? What are his chief traits of character? For what may he be admired?

* Is there a “villain”? If there is one, what are some of his characteristics? Does he have any good points?

* Point out some examples of analytic characterization. How does it add to the story?

* Did any character change in the story by becoming wiser, braver, more villainous? Which one changed? Why did he change?

* Did the characters act in a beliavable way? What makes you think so?

7. Situation

Situation is what gives the reader information he needs for an intelligent reading of the story. We must know where the story is taking place, and we must know when the story is happening. Furthermore, it presents us with a tone or mood that hangs over the story.

Contrast is a part of situation. It is forceful to have a defeat followed by a victory. A character may be made to stand out by being braver, stronger, weaker, richer than another. Contrast may draw our attention to the unusual behavior of a person. Contrast is often in mood, as when a happy time is followed by a sad period.

These are several points to remember dealing with given situation in a story:

* Take a look on how a particularly good passage of description serves and creates suspense and mood in a story.

* Pay attention on how the given examples of description serve as dramatic background. Do the actions in a story harmonize with the background or contrast with it?

* Find out the geographical location of the story? Does it shift?

* Identify the time of the story. Does it have a similarity with the present time? Can we as modern readers identify with the time if it is not in the present? How or why?

8. Style

Simply speaking, style is the way of an author expressing himself. Each author, then, must have his own style, for each author is an individual. An author’s style can, in a way, be compared to a person’s signnature. Each of us has a different signature. Even if I were to write your name, I wouldn’t write it quite the way you do.

We all have our own particular styles in writing, styles that are so distinct that can be identified by our signatures. All of these tell us something of the person. Style in writing is much the same, for it is the author’s characteristics manner of expressing himself. This is relating to his personal technique of delivering individual feelings and thoughts.

These following questions are used to see the author’s characteristic manner of expressing his personal feelings and thoughts in his typical style in a story:

* Does the author use unfamiliar words? Are there some specific examples?

* Does the author mention remote historical or mythological persons or events? Are there particular examples? How do they add to the total effect of the story?

* If dialect is used, is it hard to understand? What is gained by its use?

* Does the dialogue seem natural? Is it stiff and awkward? Do the characters seem to be talking at the level we expect of them? If they are uneducated, do they sound it?

* Does the author make epigrams – short sentences filled with meanings that might serve as quotations?

I hope this article will give you some exact guidances to organise your interesting literary works, espcially in prose genre, i.e., flash fiction or short stories.