Flash fiction – it’ll save every one of us (maybe)

OK, terrible title-pun, but it was a sci-fi themed flash fiction workshop, so… anyhow, I’m still quite new to running workshops, and indeed flash fiction, so I wanted to share a few musings. “Flash fiction?” I hear you ask. Well, there’s no set definition – to me, it’s quickly written, minimally edited, short fiction, and it’s usually in a typical prose format, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s no set word limit but it’s normally no more than a few hundred words, and differs from short-story writing by not being revisited, re-edited and so on more than minimally. Others will have their own definitions they like to use but this does the job for me.

I probably do know a bit more about sci-fi, and am unashamedly geeky when it comes to this, so when asked to run the workshop as part of the Just Write series that take place bi-monthly at The Art House, I was more than happy to give it a go. I won’t go into all the prompts and exercises that were used, except to say that postcards and dice were involved. Nor will I list the topics that were spawned, though many fine micro-tales were created, featuring tiny tartan rabbits, JFK clones and unexpected golden eyeballs. I will say it was a pleasure I hope to repeat if and when the hosting rota comes back to me, and thanks to those who let me put their brains through the writing wringer. I did most of the exercises along with the other participants because why not… here’s one that I produced on the day from a prompt about imagining what you might say if you met your younger self during a particular event.


I step from the timeloop and look across the quiet suburban road. A group of four kids are playing around one of the ash trees left unfeeled when the estate was built a few years ago. I recognise myself as the skinniest of them. He looks up with intent, shinning up the trunk using small twigs and knobbles of bark as foot- and hand-holds. I watch him steady himself ready to leap for the inviting branch – horizontal and just the right thickness for small hands to grip. He makes the jump, grabs hard and swings. Just as I remember, his hands slip from the axle-grease smeared there by that strange guy who didn’t like children playing outdoors. He falls shoulders-first, tries to twist like a cat and gets one hand down. He rolls on the grass, holding his wrist, but being light and made of greensticks, nothing’s broken. The kids all know who did it and – oh, the things that will be put through that letterbox until their parents intervene.

I leave the photo-diverter switched on and step unseen back into the loop. He was always one to climb, and we must all learn how to fall.