Writing Notes: Details, Details.

Last night I was working on my flash fiction story for the October “Rattles” anthology (still plenty of time if you want to submit!), and I realized something interesting. When I’m writing super-short fiction, I pay more attention to small details that set the mood for the scene. In the story I’m working on now, it’s the sound of water dripping that provides the backdrop for the whole scene, and I can portray that with a single word repeated (um, “drip”, if you missed that). As I was working on the story, I realized that I use similar techniques often in short fiction as a way to conserve words.

When you only have a thousand words to tell a complete story, every word bears so much weight that there’s not a lot of room for dialogue or even actions that give us a lot of information about the setting. They have to be worked in carefully, and often I make different word choices than I might in a novel, where I’m far more focused on the characters and plot than the setting. I tend to slip into a more literary style of writing for super-short fiction, and I normally do it without really even thinking much about it (with the notable exception of last night).

Naturally, that made me wonder what would happen if I did that with a longer piece – I write in scenes, so theoretically it should work to treat each scene like a flash story as far as the level of detail goes. But I’m not sure that would really work for the genres I write in, honestly. It certainly works for some scenes – I’ve employed the same style to the first chapter of my thriller serial, and here and there to various scenes in my books, but I think the style is really too intense to use with an entire story. Or rather, a story in the genres I normally write, anyways.

But that could be personal taste too. I don’t like wading through a lot of detail when I’m reading a romance or rom. suspense novel, or even a longer thriller. It’s too much work…I prefer reading books that clip along fairly fast and focus on the story itself. My brain is really good at filling in details on its own.

I do think my flash style would work very, very well for a short (novelette) thriller though…and as soon as I finish the story I’m serializing, I think I’m going to give it a try.

Have you noticed that you use more or less details in shorter fiction verses longer fiction? Does your style change to accommodate the length? As a reader, do you prefer/expect certain styles of writing for certain genres?

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2 comments on “Writing Notes: Details, Details.

  1. Ardee-ann Eichelmann

    I do write short fiction in a different manner than I do longer pieces. I go for “the bite” so to speak. I find flash fiction to be a challenge because I am most comfortable in the 2K word range but I can write shorter pieces too. In fact, I just did a prize winning piece in 500 words and I had to really work on getting “the bite” in with so few words to work with. Whew!

    Anyway, I LIKE details…I am very kinesetic and I want to see, hear, taste, smell and feel what the characters are experiencing. I want to smell the must, taste the bitter bile, see the earth shattering horror, feel the rough, calloused touch of the fingers and hear the ticking of the clock. I like knowing as much as I can so that I am fully enveloped in the story. Cheers, Ardee-ann

  2. Carol

    I never really thought about it before, but you’re right – I do change my style to accommodate length. With short/flash fiction I tend to create a mood that is sustained throughout the piece, but with longer fiction the mood changes from scene to scene.

    I also pay closer attention to detail in shorter pieces. As you say, with short fiction you have fewer words to work with so those words have to really be the right ones.