I’m in the middle of a personal flash fiction challenge on my blog.  Five stories, five days, using five settings proposed by Chuck Wendig.  I’ve done other flash fiction challenges in the past.  Whether they were my own challenges, like the Fortnightcaps or Flashathon, or weekly contests like 5 Minute Fiction or the Humpday Challenge.  This is because I find flash fiction invaluable helpful to my writing process.  Especially high-pressure prompted flash fiction.

It comes down to a raw surge of panicked creativity.  That moment when you get an idea that isn’t yours, but immediately has to become your own.  In those minutes I come up with stories I would never conceive of under typical writing situations.  Stories that I like, and even the occasional story that I want to bulk up to a longer piece.  A short story, a novella, I’ve even considered screenplays that started from a few minutes of crazed writing.

Oh shit, Script Frenzy starts on Sunday.  No.  Too many other projects.

Turning the brain off and writing is a theme I’ve hit on before.  I’ve called it the “Power of Crap,” I’ve used it as a defense of Nanowrimo.  It’s a way to stretch the brain, keep it limber.  While there are markets out there for flash fiction, I don’t expect more than one in twenty of the ultra-short pieces I write to be up to snuff for submission.  And that’s fine.  It’s not why I’m writing them.  The occasional deeper idea or salable story is a bonus, not a reason.

I do it because it’s fun.  Because it’s a way of being creative over a shorter period where I might lack the time to build the momentum up for a longer story.  Prompts help with that process, they remove a step along the way of story crafting.  That’s why they’re everywhere.  Tagged on the end of Writing Excuses episodes, offered once a week on Terrible Minds, thrown out on a weekly basis in contests.  Even if you don’t have the time to do the contest itself, or the wrong block of time, the big secret is…you can still use the prompts.  Stock pile them.  Grab one at random when you want to write but don’t know what.  Then write it.  Keep it under 1000 words, or under 500.  But take it seriously (not the same as don’t be humorous).  Try to make it a story, not just an idea or an image.  Though the important word there is try.  If you only have time to create an idea, create an idea.  Then figure out where to use it in the future, and it’s ready made to drop in and increase a story by a few hundred words.

I’m running out of my allotment.  Keep up with flash fiction, have fun with it.  It’s led me fantastic places, and I hope it can do the same for you.

Since this is about collecting prompts, one of my own: You have a time machine.  What goes wrong?

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.