Saturday 22 December 2018

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 22

Day 22: Story Sketches

One of the most exciting elements of flash is the way whole worlds can be suggested with broad strokes and a few carefully chosen details.  In today's prompt, we're going to play with writing loose and free, making sketches with our words.


Part 1

Tell a story with the bare minimum of fussiness and elaboration.  Set yourself a timer for no more than five minutes (and you're very welcome to go shorter if you're feeling brave), and get the bones of a story down on paper.

Instead of seeing this as merely an outlining of a story, try to imagine yourself as the flash equivalent of a sketch artist: you have a limited time to capture the essence of a moment or scene, and you're choosing this fast and gestural approach on purpose.  Embrace the omissions and the playfulness of your quickly-drawn lines.

You are welcome to use the art provided as a starting point, or begin with a blank canvas, whatever you prefer.

This exercise works wonderfully if you're people-watching or picking up snippets of overheard conversation.  It can also be a useful tool when approaching a longer story that isn't quite working; if you put your draft aside and write a quick gestural version of it, you may discover something new about what's at its heart, or at least what about it interests you the most.

Once you're done with Part 1, you can, for an extra challenge, move on to...

Part 2

Once you have a sketch, you can transform it into something different by choosing elements to colour and texture...elements that might not otherwise have been the primary focus.

Play around with your Part 1 sketch by adding or accenting a detail or feature that was not the primary focus in the first draft.  This may pull the piece in a different direction or change its focus.  Be open to whatever might happen and have fun!


If you enjoy writing to visual prompts, here are a few places to check out:

  • For quick, gestural writing (you're not meant to take more than an hour in your writing and editing), check out Visual Verse (where submissions are open from the 1st to the 15th of each month).  
  • If your flash sidles into prose poetry territory -- or even full-on poetry (we won't tell!), you might be interested in Rattle's monthly Ekphrastic Challenge (with an upcoming 31 December deadline for this month).
  • If you'd prefer to choose your own visual prompts, The Ekphrastic Review's guidelines says they would love to see more prose, including micro, flash and shorter fiction, that is about or inspired by art. 

The artwork for today's prompt was created by writer and artist Jeanette Sheppard.  We've got some wonderfully exciting news to share about Jeanette in the near future, but in the meantime, do check out her beautiful website at, or catch up with her on Twitter @InkLinked for writing and @JinnySketches for art.


Find out more about National Flash Fiction Day at our website or get in touch if you'd like to learn more about how you can get involved.

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