Flash fiction is short fiction, sometimes very short fiction, and Community Education includes it in its curriculum this month with a morning session conducted by Karen Wrigglesworth.
Karen, an engineer by profession, is also a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction. She contributed an interesting series of articles to the Wanganui Chronicle on local engineering features of interest, "things you see but take no notice of", using her engineering and writing knowledge.
"I got really interested in telling those stories for ordinary [non-engineering] people to enjoy," she says. "Just because it's about a 'sciencey' thing, it doesn't have to be complicated. What it does and how it does it can be explained simply."
Karen also volunteers at Wanganui SPCA, but, surprisingly, cats haven't made their way into her stories. The SPCA work came about when her daughter wanted to volunteer and Karen thought she might need mum's help. It turned out not to be the case and they work independently.
Now she's doing a stint for Community Education.
"The definition of Flash Fiction varies, so it could be 1000 words, but usually it's short. I'll write 100 to 200 words, so it's something you can start and finish when you haven't got a lot of time. But there are also lots of opportunities to 'put it out there' if you want to, or just fiddle around with it and experiment."
There is an art to confining a whole story to a few words.
"I did a course myself and the first one I wrote was 53 words. You haven't got fat in the system so you learn to be precise with your language and to boil it down to what you are trying to say."
Karen does not necessarily teach students to write a longer story then edit it down.
"You learn to have an idea that fits the length," she says.
"I have multiple longer projects at various stages so the short fiction has been my sanity. Short fiction gives me the satisfaction that longer pieces take longer to give."
Karen is basing the structure of the course on the one she completed.
"You start with short fiction, say 50 odd words, then you write a 100 word story. Suddenly 100 words is a lot and you've got all this space. Then you write a 200 word story, then you start coming back down again. We won't do all of that in the time but we're going to start looking at ... here's a longer story, how do you write it shorter? You learn different story lengths have different drivers and it teaches you to use words with care, and how much of the story you don't actually need to say."
People will have different reasons for doing the course. Some will be writers, some will do it for therapy.
"Let's see what they can get out of it that's going to help with whatever else they do with their writing."
Flash Fiction Workshop. Tutor: Karen Wrigglesworth
There will be plenty of opportunity to experiment, and explore how to write the stories you really want to write. You will also learn about 'voice', how editing can improve your work, and publication opportunities.
Saturday, October 14, 9am-midday. One session. $40.
Information and to book, phone Community Education 345 4717.