Welcome back to the TUFFest Ride where five writers — Ritu Bhathal, Bill Engleson, Pete Fanning, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Kay Kingsley — exhibit their flash fiction riding skills in The Ultimate Flash Fiction. TUFF is a process of drafting, revising, and rewriting a single story by varying word counts.
The TUFFest Ride also includes unexpected technical challenges. Like POV. All authors write their stories from a point of view (POV). It is the position the narrator takes in telling the story. Here’s a simple breakdown, although it is not a simple technique to master:
- First person POV: the character tells his or her own story, relating the experiences as they happen. Narration uses the pronoun “I.”
- Second person POV: narrates the experiences of the reader as “you” in non-fiction. Not to say it can’t be used in literary art or fiction; it’s just not common.
- Third person POV: the character does not relate his or her own story, but relates the experiences of another. Third person omniscient has access to the thoughts and experiences of all the characters. Third person limited only has access to the thoughts and experiences one or a few characters. POV characters allow an author full access to a few key characters while staying out of the skins and heads of the remaining characters.
When an author jumps too quickly from one character’s thoughts to another, readers have trouble keeping up. Editors call this “head-hopping.” Readers need a signal (a page break, chapter break, italics, etc.) to follow the narration that includes multiple POV characters.
Typically, in flash fiction, writers use one narration voice. But how do we know that is the right voice for our stories? The 99-word flash fiction form offers an experimental writing tool. It’s not a big commitment — only 99 words — and a writer can use it to try different POVs. Another possibility, if a writer is still trying to figure out the angle for the story-idea, a new POV can shed light on the story.
A different POV character might be someone mentioned in the story — what is that person doing when the story happens according to narration? Or it could be the POV of an observer. Second person POV could be a narrator telling the character their own stories such as a grandparent relating a child’s tale to the child, or a loved one telling a coma victim their story.
By now, you should know that this week’s TUFF challenge will include POV. The Fab Five (and hopefully some of you playing from home) all have a new free-draft that includes the prompt “mudslide.” All the challenges from here on out use that free-draft story. You are not writing a new story, but you are rewriting the original, and you can certainly go any direction you want with it. Cutting words is an exercise in concision but is not truly revising.
I want you to be brave and revise. I want you to push into your original draft and pull out a 99-word story from it.
The Second Challenge: write two 99-word stories using your original free-draft for mudslide. One continues the original POV. The second uses a different POV or POV character. This is your chance to see how flash fiction can be an exploratory tool.
All of the stories for our Fab Five will post November 1. However, if you’d like to hear their stories, I offer you a reading on SoundCloud. I had, once again, technical difficulties. This time I did get the video recorded but failed to upload it. I’d like a quick shout-out to Frank Hubeney who has often recorded flash fiction readings using SoundCloud as that gave me a secondary option. Hopefully, I’ll have the recording issues worked out by next week!
The TUFFest Ride Reading of Free-Write Entries for Mudslide by Kay Kingsley, Bill Engleson, Pete Fanning, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Ritu Bhathal: