Flash fiction – Louise Jensen

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By Louise Jensen

When I started writing in earnest eighteen months ago, I created a blog and stumbled across a weekly flash fiction challenge. A photo would be posted each week and participants were invited to use this prompt to create a hundred word story.♥

It sounded great fun and a good way to kick off my blog. It was nerve-wracking sending my first story out into the world but if I’m honest, I didn’t expect anyone to read it, but read it they did and I was enveloped into a supportive writing community who have critiqued with kindness, encouraged and soothed every step of the way on my journey to publication.

Creating a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end in only a hundred words is far harder than it sounds. Every word needs to count. Every action needs to be clear. Superfluous words stripped away. There is no place, no space for waffle, irrelevant backstory or those annoying adverbs that can sometimes sneak into a longer piece, no matter how vigilant we are. Writing becomes tighter, clearer, pacier.

My first attempts were pitiful. At that time I didn’t know past and present tenses were different things and my writing was muddled. Sifting through the comments each week I rewrote my pieces. My writing became sharper. The intent behind my words became more apparent. And gradually I found I needed to explain my stories less and less. I became more selective about the language I used. Choosing words for maximum emotional impact. My vocabulary expanded and my voice began to shine through.

Writing stories in different genres each week has helped me realise where my passion lies. Where I want to fit in the world of fiction.

Sometimes I’ve loved the feel of a piece of prose I’ve written for a flash fiction piece so much I’ve integrated it into my novel, The Sister.

This is a flash fiction piece, called ‘run.’

My heart pounds in my ears but I can still hear his footsteps behind me. The smell of fried onions hangs in the night air, even though the burger van has long gone. The streets are deserted. What does he want? Alcohol churns in my stomach and I stumble, kick off my heels, and run. He’s getting closer.
My bare feet slap against the wet pavement. I don’t see the broken glass but the shards slice into my flesh. I fall. Scream. There’s a hand on my shoulder. Hot breath against my neck.

‘Miss? You left your purse in the club.’

This is how I adapted that piece to use it in The Sister: –

The night breeze cools my hot cheeks. The smell of frying onions from the burger van fills the air, greasy and sweet. I tap my clutch bag against my thigh impatiently as I scour the street for a taxi. The clubs haven’t kicked out yet and there are no cabs to be seen. The rank isn’t too far. I decide to walk.

The street is deserted – everyone’s still partying. I turn off the main road, and as the thumping of the bass quietens and fades, I hear footsteps behind me. I stop. Fiddle with my bag and glance over my shoulder. There’s no one in sight, but the shop doorways cast shadows and I wonder what they’re hiding. Who they’re hiding. I move again. My heels click-click-click against the pavement and there it is again. The slap of shoes on concrete.

I speed up. So do the footsteps. Alcohol churns in my stomach and I calculate the quickest route back to the main road. Run at full pelt. My breath wheezes and my mouth hangs open in a silent scream. Fight or flight has kicked in: I’m definitely the latter. My heels slow me down and I wonder whether I’ve time to kick them off – they’re hard enough to walk in, let alone run – but the footsteps are getting closer and I can’t afford to stop. There’s hot breath on my neck. Something brushes against my shoulder…

Flash fiction is addictive and one of the single most important things I have found to improve my writing. Why not give it a go?

Louise Jensen lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat. The Sister is Louise’s debut novel.


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