Time slips through our fingers like (cliché warning!) sand. Never enough of it to do all we want, especially never enough time to read.
|Just a reminder that Banned Books Week is Sept. 30-Oct. 6.|
This is why flash fiction — generally accepted as stories of fewer than 1,000 words — is gaining in popularity. It’s also accepted that flash is tougher to write successfully than a traditional short story. Characters must be presented succinctly and in as few words as possible. There is no space for meandering off into descriptions that don’t push the story line ahead. Time is usually constricted to the immediate here and now and space is circumscribed.
I gravitated to flash because the length and style can be applied to any genre — mystery, romance, thriller, “literary,” humor/satire, Western. Unknowingly, I tripped innocently into writing and selling my first flash in 2007 with the sale of “Not My Wife” to the now-defunct mystery magazine Mouth Full of Bullets. It started with my Hong Kong cop Jimmy Huang talking about a murder suspect….
Right now, I’m looking at this hwa-chiao, a Chinese-American tourist at the station house who’s bitching at Inspector Chan. He claims he’s an important visitor. He’s shaking his finger and saying, “I report my wife has disappeared, then I came back to find an imposter in my hotel room, not even a good duplicate.” Of course, from his mouth it comes out like “fucking imposter” and “goddamn duplicate.” Most perps use bad language to show their sincerity. This guy is the slickest I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of them, from Guangzhou to Macao. His missing wife was Shanghainese and one of the richest broads around. Now he claims this woman at the hotel really isn’t his wife.
The inspiration for the story was discovering a fascinating condition known as Capgras syndrome, after the French shrink who discovered it. It’s when you think a close relative or spouse has been replaced by an imposter, an exact double. (Send me an e-mail if you’d like to know how Detective Huang solved the murder in 744 words.)
Since that time five years ago, I’ve written and published, in print and online, some 36 flash fiction pieces. Half a dozen of them have appeared in one of the great online publications, Every Day Fiction. You can read “Death in the Afternoon,” one of my early sales, at http://www.everydayfiction.com/death-in-the-afternoon-by-walter-giersbach/.
Best part of writing for immediate gratification is that I trip over loads of prompts. “Number Eleven” concentrated on the terrible coincidence of the number of letters in a phrase or name; “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon made me think of a 51st event that might have won the Darwin award for stupidity; “Queen at the End of the Bar” (http://www.gumshoereview.com/php/Review-id.php?id=2915) was inspired by pollution causing biological changes in wildlife (and humans?); and “Where’s Old Bill Hughes” was prompted by a mythical passenger who has survived shipwrecks for 200 years.
Now, someone help me with a story surrounding prosopagnosia, the neurological condition in which person doesn’t recognize faces. I have a touch of that bad wiring in my brain, and can’t come up with a plot.