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Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes Hardcover – June 1, 1997
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Gather your writing utensils, set the timer to five minutes, and write a short short story. Do not think. Do not judge. Just write. You'll be amazed with what you come up with. The rest, says Roberta Allen, is merely a matter of rewriting and refining. There's something very appealing about the short short form (defined by critic Irving Howe as "a moment rendered in its wink of immediacy" and limited here to 1,000 words). As in poetry, every word and punctuation mark counts. Your characters' histories have to be delivered, if at all, with just a sliver of language. The form is elegant in the way a mathematical proof can be elegant--beautiful and economical--and the examples Allen uses, from the works of Anton Chekhov, Carolyn Forché, Mark Strand, and others, are sublime. (The examples from her students are less compelling, and one does tire of trying to keep her many students straight.)
The center section of the book comprises a nice selection of exercises to get you started. One involves writing stories from photographs; another has you choose one item from a list (such as "a broken promise," "something that was stolen," "a party," "something that hasn't happened yet," "a child," and "a secret") and write a story about it.
The third part of the book, in which Allen makes an argument for using her method to write a novel in five-minute bites, is shakier. Writing longer fiction generally requires some kind of flow that this method doesn't allow for. Using this method for that purpose would require that a lot of energy to be spent creating connective tissue. Even still, the five-minute method would be useful for tapping the unconscious, working through problem spots, and getting going in the morning. After all, doesn't that page look much more inviting once it has some words on it?
About the Author
Roberta Allen is on the faculty of The New School for Social Research and also teaches at New York University, at The Writer's Voice, and in private workshops.
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I've never been able to create anything in five minutes, but Ms. Allen's five-minute-thought-probe drills can really help a writer get off the flat part of the creative wheel. The high examples of Flash chosen are remarkable. I have to agree with Doctor Owl, "Vision Out of the Corner of One Eye" by Luisa Valenzuela is a minor masterpiece.
I've recommended FAST FICTION to many beginning Flash writers.
Ramon Collins - Micro editor, The Linnet's Wings
When I did the exercises I was so surprised by some of the stuff I wrote. The ideas just came in a flash for me. I found myself with so many ideas rushing through me that I had to slow down a little to actually get everything written down. Occasionally, I would read one of the topics and for a second I'd think something like, "Okay, I can't think of anything to write about an insect" and then the next second I found myself just writing for five minutes straight as the story rapidly unfolded in my mind. When the five minutes were up, I'd be left feeling stunned that I actually wrote a pretty decent story on a subject like the one above.
Although, I've always enjoyed writing, before I read this book I was starting to get a little stuck. I had trouble thinking of topics or finishing short stories. This book really made me want to start writing stories again. I haven't completely finished the book yet, but already it has really helped me out a lot. I undoubtedly reccomend this book to anyone reading this review.