Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guest Post: Damyanti and Flash Fiction

I met Patricia Lynne During the A to Z challenge, at her first post, which was all about her Wedding Day. Being 1st April, All Fools day, I didn’t believe her at first. But then, eventually, I did.

When I heard she was coming out with her book, Being Human, I wanted to host her on my blog, and she did stop by during her blog tour.

Today, she has asked me what hooked me to flash fiction, and why I love it so much. I’m going to do my best to answer both questions. Thank you Patricia, for having me here, and I hope I do justice to your invite.

My Journey: Writing Flash Fiction

Roughly three years ago, I did a creative writing course with Sharon Bakar, in Kuala lumpur, Malaysia. She suggested the book  Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Roberta Allen. I loved the exercises in the book, and since it neatly tied in with the concept of free-writing that Sharon had taught me, I began to write in five-minute bursts. I would take a prompt, a word, a picture, a sentence, anything at all, and start writing, pretty much without thinking. And hundreds of such exercises later, that is still the way I write, by dream-storming a word, or line or image.

Another book that influenced me, and from where I got the word dream-storming, is From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. After reading through this book (several times), I got into the habit of entering a sort of trance, of letting the character take over, of entering a setting and becoming part of it. My stories (even the longer short stories) never start from an idea, but instead from an image which tugs at me and compels me to write.

I like letting myself go when I scribble. To find a playground for just such writing whimsies, I started Daily (w)rite, where apart from some journaling and rambling about writing, I began to put up some of the 5-minute or ten minute exercises I had written. I got a few good response from my readers, and kept at it, mostly because i enjoyed it.

Then came A to Z Challenge, which involved blogging on 26 days of April, based on 26 letters of the alphabet. Being naive, (and incredibly stupid), I thought of writing one flash piece each day. I guess another way to put this is that I like a challenge. On some days, the pieces came easy, on other days I barely made the midnight deadline. To make it even more challenging, I asked readers to drop me prompts, and when they obliged, I me, I chose words from there. 

Near the end of the A to Z challenge, some of the readers asked me to compile the 26 pieces of flash fiction into an e-book, and the idea of A to Z stories of Life and Death was born. I threw out and re-wrote a few of the original pieces, I took advice from beta readers and tossed out some more. I spit and polished them as best as I could. Not many stories in the collection are longer than 200 words, and the entire book adds up to barely 12000 words. My hope is that I’ve made each one of them count.

Now that the book is done, and people read it and tell me they like my work, it is a pleasure. But if I'm to be honest, there was equal pleasure in writing these pieces of flash fiction. Because I wrote each piece in a rush of adrenalin, with a beating heart. Some I wrote with tears in my eyes.

I believe that a story decides its length, and this is most true of flash fiction. In a short span of time, a flash piece tells us an entire story, or at least gives us a glimpse that lets us divine the rest. 

Today, I still have a long way to go with flash fiction---I hope to one day write flash pieces that would challenge and entertain just as much as any novel.

Have you ever written flash fiction? What has been your experience writing in this category?

Damyanti lives more in her head than in this world, adores her husband, and loves her pet fish and plants. She is an established writer for magazines and journals. Her short fiction has been published in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Muse India and in print anthologies by Marshall Cavendish, Monsoon Books, and MPH publications.

Twitter: @damyantig


  1. Thanks for this. I especially like the idea that a story decides its length. I've only just started experimenting with flash fiction but I've found that to be so true. Once the story is done, it's done.

  2. Cool post, Damyanti. I totally agree that a story idea decide can decide the length of the story. I've played around a bit with flash fiction myself, and do enjoy being able to produce something meaningful within minutes/hours rather than months, like in a novel.

    Thanks for hosting Damyanti, Patricia!

  3. I love the word "dream-storming" which suggests a spontaneity , free-flowing creativity ; as opposed to the deliberate , academic connotation of "brainstorming" .
    My very first fiction piece was the drabble (100-word story) , which I really enjoy , and still write on a weekly basis .
    Thanks for the informative post !

  4. Sarah, yes, once the story is done, it's done. Sometimes the hard part is knowing if and when it is done!

  5. JC, you don't just play with flash, you write it very well. Well enough to guest post on it at my blog!

    Mish...I love dream-storming..and drabbles, though I've only written a very few. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  6. Damyanti writes the Best. Flash. Fiction. Ever! D, you're an inspiration. I love writing flash. I started during the two-year duration of Britain's The Phone Book experiment, which solicited stories of 140 characters or fewer, including punctuation, spaces and title. (The purpose was to produce stories that could be read on one screen of a mobile phone.) I still post at least one a month on my blog (I call them my Monthly Hot Flashes) and often I post one on Sample Sunday.

    Your dream-storming is what one of my writing groups calls free writing, and I love it, too! From your post and the comments, it sounds like a lot of us are on the same wavelength about getting in the zone and letting the story out. I asked a guy once how long a particular story should be and he said, "How long is a piece of string? As long as it needs to be." heh!

    Patricia, thank you SO MUCH for hosting one of my very most favoriteset writers!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  7. Damyanti, thanks again for being my guest. Everyone else, thanks for the comments.
    @Marian, she does write the best flash fiction ever. During the A to Z Challenge, I was at her blog almost every day, blown away by the little stories.

  8. Hey, Patricia,

    Nice to be here. Damyanti, I'm sure you'll be chuffed to know that some of your stories have brought tears to my eyes. Plain and simple, you're good at what you do.

  9. And I thought it was amazing you wrote all of those stories for the Challenge!

  10. Hi JL!
    Alex, thanks for stopping by and I agree.

  11. Marian, you're Way Too Kind :)...and yes most writers do end up dreamstorming tho many don't call it that.

    Patricia, Thank YOU for hosting me. I'm honored.

    Joy, I'm indeed chuffed! :)

    Alex, was hard,but it was worth it!

  12. I alwasy believed myself that the story should determine it's own length. Which is why I can never write things of a consistant length, but they all thankfully feel complete. I'll totally have to check out some of the books you brought up Damyanti.

  13. I haven't done flash fiction myself... it kind of reminds me of improvisation in the theatre.

  14. Flash fiction can be a great writing exercise and you certainly proved your skills during A TO Z. I'd never tried it, or even heard of it for that matter, until I started blogging. I done a few things now.

    Tossing It Out

  15. Jenny, please do check them out, you'll not be disappointed!

    William, it is and isn't. You should try it sometime.

    Lee, it was A to Z that got me going, so thank YOU!

    Thanks Patricia, for having me over, so I could meet all these awesome folks :)