Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flash Fiction and The Horror Genre - A Match Made in… Hell?

I suppose that depends on your definition of hell, and as readers and writers of the paranormal, we all know just how many variations there are. But if I start by explaining that I’m a traditionalist and my definition of hell is pretty much along the lines of the brimstone, fire, fallen angel Lucifer sort of line, you’ll get the picture. I didn’t much like the idea of combining flash fiction and my genre of choice.

I couldn’t imagine it – trying to cram all the intricacies and false turns and numerous scares into under one thousand words, or better still under five hundred? It wouldn’t work. It couldn’t work. Horror has too much to say to condense it. Even Poe’s ‘The Raven’ has 1,092 words.

So I left flash fiction + horror alone. That isn’t to say that I never wrote any flashes; I did. A lot. I fell in love with flash fiction and even started a blog about it ( But I couldn’t reconcile it with my beloved horror. Until, on occasion, I found myself struggling to get enough words down when I wrote a short story. The ideas were fine, but they didn’t want or need to be five thousand, seven thousand, ten thousand word epics. They would quite happily, without cutting bits out or chopping bits off (unless the plot called for it, of course…), be an entire story with a beginning, middle and end (no matter how open those endings might be) in under one thousand words. Under five hundred. Sometimes even fewer.

Strange. Was this my subconscious telling me I was still interested in attempting horror flash fiction? Or was it simply a coincidence? I still don’t know. But I did decide to give it a shot. With a vague story in my head, I started typing. I wanted to write about a man trapped in a coma, aware of everything, unable to move, to speak, to live without machines. I wanted him to have a wife who chatted to a doctor – in front of her husband – about turning those machines off. I wanted to know what his feelings were about it. And that was it. None of the characters needed a background. It wasn’t important why the man was in hospital in the first place. It didn’t even really matter if we, the reader, ever found out if the machines were switched off or not. What mattered was that tiny fraction of time, that conversation, and the comatose man’s reaction to it.

That was the story. It comes in at 530 words. It scared the hell out of a lot of people.

And that was my first piece of flash fiction in the horror genre. It’s called ‘I Know’ and you can read it on my blog

I still find it difficult. I often begin what I think will be flash only to find it’s a short story in the end. But I have changed my opinion in one regard; now I think some of the best horror I’ve read in the past few months has been flash. Short, sharp shocks. It’s perfect, really.

~ * ~

Lisamarie Lamb is a 29 year old mother of one. She was five when she wrote her first short story - it involved a car going over a cliff, Jessica Fletcher and the Phantom Raspberry Blower. It didn't have much of a plot (he did it, she solved it) but it did have rather colourful (crayon) illustrations and it did make her realise that writing was for her. 

At 12 Lisamarie wrote her first novel during the school summer holidays. Loosely based on the Famous Five with a bit of James Bond thrown in, it was an adventure story and her English teacher made her read some of it out in class. And that's when she realized that she wanted people to hear her stories and read her work. 

Over the intervening years, Lisamarie has written various short stories, plays, poems and novels in different genres, including romance and children’s books. If you wish to see more examples of her writing, she has a blog in which she showcases flash fiction and soon poetry as well.

She has recently self published her first novel, Mother’s Helper.

Lisamarie promises she’s better at plots now, and she uses her own characters, but the excitement, fun and just a little wonder are still there. Her crayon skills have not improved.

Aside from her blog, you can also connect with Lisamarie on Twitter @lisamarie20010; and Facebook:

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