KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Micro Craft Essay: 424 words [R]

Flashy Tips

by Meg Pokrass
  1. Unusual Details: Make characters out of obscure traits, for example, how do they greet their cat? What is their favourite film...and why?

  2. Create Conflict: Bother your characters, provide a good deal of trouble. Don’t let them get there too easily.

  3. Childhood Nickname: Make up a nickname that your main character had as a child. Don’t tell the reader what it is, but keep it in mind while writing your story. This may sound strange, but our childhood embarrassments often shadow adulthood.

  4. Sexy Elf Logic: If there’s an elf in your story, go ahead and make them sexy, but give him some issues. I mean, if you are a sexy elf, you’re going to come with some psychological baggage. No matter how fantastical a character is, make them real.

  5. Woe Is Me: Readers don’t like characters who sit around feeling hurt by the world and wallowing in it. Instead, they care about characters who, despite all of the difficulty life has thrown them, are finding ways to thrive.

  6. Crisis/Advantage: When something very hard has happened in your life, use it. Let something similar happen to your character. Disguise it. Dismantle it. Here we can finally make use of the stuff that hurts. This will help your fiction.

  7. Sex in Flash: A character’s unique relationship to sex is far more interesting than writing about lusty characters having sex all over the place. If there is sex in a story, don’t hit us over the head with it.

  8. Trust the Reader: The quickest way to lose a reader’s trust is to tell them what you mean. After you’re done writing your story, go through and get rid of any places where you are trying to explain what is happening in the story. Instead, let the reader see what’s happening by your very specific use of unusual detail and a banquet full of sensory information. Anton Chekhov said it this way: “Don’t tell me that the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

  9. Follow the Love: Follow the trail of messy love wherever it takes your characters, even if the love is invisible to the eye, and especially if it makes no sense.

  10. Cultivate a Sense of the Ridiculous: Everything that really matters to your character is also somewhat ridiculous when looked at from a different perspective. Don’t take yourself (or your characters) too seriously when writing fiction. Make the stakes high, but let a ray of ironic humour shine through.

—Published previously on the author’s Facebook page (19 May 2019); appears here with her permission.

Meg Pokrass
Issue 12, Summer 2019

is the author of five collections of flash fiction, a novella-in-flash from Rose Metal Press, and an award-winning collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas (2014 Blue Light Poetry Prize). Forthcoming books include a novella-in-flash, The Smell of Good Luck (to be published in 2019 by Flash: The International Short Short Story Press), and a collection of microfiction, The Sadness of Night Bugs (Pelekinesis Press).

Her writing has been widely anthologized, most recently in The Best Small Fictions 2018, edited by Aimee Bender (Braddock Avenue Books); in two Norton anthologies of flash fiction, Flash Fiction International (2015) and New Micro (2018); and in Nothing Short Of 100, Flash Non-Fiction Funny, and Flash Fiction Funny. Her work has appeared in 350 literary magazines, both online and in print, including Electric Literature, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Five Points, Smokelong Quarterly, and Tupelo Review.

Meg is the Founding/Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review and currently serves as Flash Challenge Editor at Mslexia Magazine, Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival UK, and Co-Editor of Best Microfiction. She also teaches ongoing flash-fiction workshops, both online and in person, in the U.K. and Ireland. Find out more about her teaching at:

Follow Meg on Twitter: [at]megpokrass

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