That Freud. He knew a thing or two about description. Of course he was talking about the world of dreams but the world of dreams and the world of the flash fiction story have a lot of things in common when it comes to description.
Hello my brother and sister bloggers and writers. What is the purpose of description in the flash fiction story? Well, since every word in a flash fiction story must count more than one way, description has to be more than just description. The more that a flash fiction writer can control what description says about the story and about the characters in the story the deeper that story will be.
If you’re writing a 400-1000 word story, the scene is one of your most powerful tools to make the story come alive for the reader. In the scene there is conflict and action and usually dialogue. You are showing and not telling.
But to break up this blur of movement you may want to throw in some description: let the reader know where the story is taking place, what your characters are wearing and what they look like. Excellent. Just keep in mind that the locale of your story, what your characters are wearing and what they look like should be “intentional.” Description must have a purpose.
Don’t mention a character’s blue eyes simply because you like blue eyes. Don’t mention that the color of a woman’s dress is red because it’s the color that popped into your head at the time. You want to be in more control of your craft than that. What pops into your head during that rush to get words down on paper during the writing of the first draft is fine; but during revision ask yourself, does the color of his eyes move the story forward? Does the color of her dress explain something about her?
In other words, description must do at least two things. It must ground the reader in the physical world of the story and it must tell the reader something more about the story than the reader’s senses or intellect can detect. I don’t want to get Zen on you but you want something in the story to appeal to the subconscious of the reader. Why the subconscious? Where do you think all of our stories come from? And of course the subconscious of the writer is connected to the collective subconscious of the species. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. This is Compressionism 102. Let’s just say that in the world of your story a kitchen should be more than just a kitchen. A river is more than just a river. A color is more than just a color and the Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh is more than just a building.
When you get a pattern of these subconscious signifiers going your story will begin to echo with an undercurrent of meaning that you are in some conscious control over. You won’t have total control over your signifiers because your subconscious will have something to say about that; but the control that you do have will make your story deeper. And the shorter a story is the deeper it should be.
Short Story Ideas That Work
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