But alas, that is not real life.
Last year I read a novel called “Spirited Away,” which was unbelievably optimistic. It had an amazing premise–an historical story about two sisters kidnapped from Ireland and sold into Barbados slavery. Yet, for every bad incident, something good happened. For example: the main character is raped in captivity, but she bears a son that she loves without reserve and miraculously gets to keep with her at all times.
That’s not real. As humans we have a plethora of emotions and many that are battling against one another. Something bad happens and we react. Something good happens and we react. The complexities of our reactions often have us behaving differently from how we feel.
What this complexity offers us as writers is tension. Yes, a character can rise above her circumstances, but without the tug and pull of tension there is no plot. We need to see the tension, the inner struggle of the character, before we can believe that all is sunshine and daisies.
While “Spirited Away” was cleanly edited, it was a sterile read. It failed to live up to its potential, to the little known history of Irish in the 18th century slave trade and to create believable characters. How can we have a brilliant premise, promising characters and a sterile story?
It’s all in the tension and how we sharpen it.
“Writer’s Digest” discusses the importance of what is at stake for a character in the article, “How to Build Tension and Heighten the Stakes.” Instead of counter-balancing every bad situation for a good one, the stakes continue to rise.
Had the author of “Spirited Away” understood how to build tension she would have reserved resolutions for the end. By sprinkling resolutions throughout the story, as if to ease the character’s pain, she actually reduced the stakes and made the story unbelievable.
We are going to focus on building tension in flash. If you read the article, you’ll encounter a stakes builder called the twist. Twists offer something unexpected, and flash is primed for twists. This week we are going experiment with twists. Usually flash ends with a twist, but we are going to do something unexpected–we are going to begin with a twist.
May 14, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that begins with a twist. How did the character get there? Are there more twists? It’s up to you. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, May 20 to be included in the compilation. We have lots of talent writing flash and it will be exciting to see where twists lead.
(Note: I have brunch for my daughter who turns 24 today and another master’s defense to scoot to! I’ll add my own story later.)
Rules of Play:
- New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
- Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
- Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
- Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
- If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
- Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
- Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
- Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
- You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
- First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.