This week I’ve been teaching flash fiction to middle-grade students as part of a creative writing summer camp. Preparing lessons and listening to the work they did in class (they were really good writers) gave me some ideas to jump-start my own writing practice and exercise new creative muscles.
1. Try a writing prompt.
Choose one of these, set a timer, and free-write for 10 minutes. Like what you came up with? Continue it, revise it, add to it, or consider working it into an already in-progress piece.
• One morning you discover your grew a set of horns while you were sleeping.
• People live under water.
• You’re invited to go on tour with a band.
• You switch bodies with an animal.
• You go to a special school to learn a super power.
2. Work with genre.
Think: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Horror and Realism. Take a few minutes to choose a character and familiarize yourself with that character’s basic details (name, age, looks, likes, skills). Then write that character’s 300-word bio in each genre.
3. Take your cues from the art you love.
Choose a painting or a song title and write a 300-500 word story about it. It’s not important to stay true to the intent of the artist or songwriter — in fact, the farther away you get from the actual story, the better. Make “Blue Boy” into an emissary from an alien race, make “All Along the Watch Tower” about the midnight raid of a band of fairies.
4. Rewrite a classic.
Choose a well-known story — Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Great Expectations — and retell it in another genre. Give a fairy tale a sci-fi twist, turn a love story into horror fiction, set Charles Dickens’ characters in present day. Stick to the flash fiction limit of 1,000 or fewer words to start — you can always expand the idea if it’s working. And remember: Retellings are very popular, especially in YA.