The 3.am Epiphany and the 4.am Breakthrough by Brian Kiteley are books of ‘unconventional writing exercises that transform your fiction.’ The writer and Director of National Flash Fiction Day Callum Kerr, spent a year writing a flash fiction each day. An inspiring thing to do. If you have a similar intention, writing using a daily story exercise from these books (more than 400 in total in the two of them) would give you a few winners I’m sure. The first exercise I tried – writing a story of less than 300 words without the letter ‘e’ – ended up as a flash which made the long list of the Fish Flash Fiction competition 2013. I’ve recently sent off another flash to a competition using a different exercise from this book. Who knows if it will be a winner, but the exercise certainly pushed me into writing in a more unusual style.
Kiteley says “use the exercises to understand the small and large processes of writing fiction, memoir and non-fiction. Combine two or three exercises together”. He suggests using four word-length constrictions, 250, 500, 750, or 1000 words. Interestingly, the most difficult exercises often have 250 word limits. Perfect for honing your skills to send off micro-fiction to the Fish, Bridport and other Flash Fiction competitions. Here’s one 250 word exercise called ‘Democracy’ from ‘The 4.00 am Breakthrough’.
”Write a fragment of a political statement made by someone who does not ordinarily make political statements…give this person a reason to vent. All we’ll hear is the person’s words and voice, not the context of the speech…How will you make it clear from the speech that the person does not usually speechify about politics? That’s your main job here. You could say so…Or you could just ignore the preamble and get to the heart of the matter..”
I don’t think this is an easy exercise, but as a non-speechifier myself, I find it intriguing. I might give it a go. I’ve recently seen the film adaptation of The Testament of Youth the memoir by Vera Brittain. It’s a wonderful film. There’s one scene where Vera finds herself on a platform spontaneously speaking. You can sense there’s no going back for her after that.