Evan Schaeffer

How to Write Damn Good Flash Fiction

    "Another drink?" my lover asks, passing the wine. I take the bottle, grimace. Though it's a Tuesday at 2 p.m., we're sitting together on a blanket in the park. The blanket's been scavenged from the trunk of my car, pulled from beneath jumper cables, tennis shoes, crumpled McDonald's bags. It's orange with yellow stains.

    We've come here to end our affair. I thought it would be easy. In fact, I'm under incredible stress. Even with all the dogs around, the grass would be far more sanitary than this blanket.

    I suppress the urge to crawl into my lover's lap. That would hardly be appropriate, since she agreed with me just two minutes ago that we're finished, we're through.

    But isn't this just the moment of incredible stress I've been waiting for?

    Yes, I think, yes. I stand, wedge the wine bottle between my feet, pull a notebook from my back pocket, a pen from behind my ear. When my lover realizes what I'm doing, she groans. As for me, I'm just happy to be writing again. Writing flash. Plus not sitting on that filthy blanket.

    The flash writer should write quickly. I write quickly. An expression of intense seriousness is recommended but not required. The expression should mirror the prose. My expression is fairly serious.

    He she they, he wrote. The feel is all wrong. Aiming for a gritty hyper-realism, I start over
. I she we, I write. Much better.

    Once point of view and verb tense have been established, the flash writer should aim for equal doses of ambiguity and irony. "I think I'll miss you," I tell my lover. "Not."

    Or, perhaps, she tells me.

    The flash writer must be a fearless self-editor. As my lover looks on, I write 3,000 words, cut 2,700. It's not quite right. I cut 200 more words, add another 100. I cut 150, then cut 50 more. I'm down to 0. I start over. Then: 499 brand new words. Each in its place, each carrying its own weight.

    As I near the end of my story, I momentarily allow myself to become distracted by a poetic image of exquisite beauty. It opens outward into the world. I capture it, set it down in words, use it to conclude my story, as follows.

    Casting aside our disagreements, I take my lover's hand, climb onto our filthy blanket. Transformed by our imaginations, it becomes our magic carpet, introducing us to new and unexpected worlds. Born along by essences of the earth, by wind and by wine, we forget our paranoia, release ourselves to our abandon, ignore our thoughts of her husband and my wife, those strays who always seem to be sniffing around in our affairs.

    Afterward, I read my new flash to my lover. She listens intently. We seem to be approaching some twist, some upending.

    "It's beautiful," she says finally. Her eyes misting up, she nuzzles my neck. "And so are you. What do you say we give it another chance?"