Voice in writing and characterization, especially in these short pieces, needs to be distinct and sure. If these points are firmly fixed in your mind, creating characters becomes easier.
This flash fiction story developed from a character sketch I did, trying to create a villain for one of my novels. I had an abundance of traits listed in his characterization. All I lacked was the voice in writing a story.
A portion of the character sketch looked like this:
Tall and lanky
Chiseled features, rough, near ugly
Was pleasant in his younger years
Piercing eyes, the kind that cover up a lifetime of ignorance
Basic nature is mean, gave up being nice
Wallows in self-pity
Mind has snapped
The writing of After the Holidays is similar to stream of consciousness writing. The best example of stream of consciousness writing is the first part of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. While Faulkner’s stream is jumbled and complicated due to the mental state of the character, it depicts a true thought process, a true voice in writing.
The stream of thought you’ll read below is clarified from Faulkner’s type of stream writing for the purpose of making the point of the story, and for the modern-day reader. Characterization is still strong.
When creating characters and writing in First Person, also make sure you get the voice correct, as in this story. Voice in writing can add a special touch to a bit of prose and further cement the character’s personality type.
Study this inner-mind dialogue piece; it shows the man’s colloquialisms. Try not to assign the voice in writing of the piece, or any dialogue in stories to any particular location, unless you know the area in which the plot takes place. Then, too, make sure you get the dialogue of the area accurate.
Often times, dialogue, which contains slang and incorrect grammar, is only a reflection of how some people speak, no matter where they live. It’s very much a part of characterization.
I had me some great memories. If Christmas fell on a weekday, everyone’d get off work at three ‘stead of five for last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. I’d have already shopped for my son though, to mail his gift early.
My wife up and left me and took my boy back east. I never forgave her and let her know ever’ time she came west again to visit her folks.
With shopping done and nothing but an empty apartment left to go home to, I’d wander around Main Street instead. People laughed, bells rang, and music played everywhere. Those were good memories. If I couldn’t see my son regular, at least I shopped for him.
Then life took a dive when I started drinking ‘cause I missed my boy. I started hanging out on the street…till I found myself living in some alley.
Where I live now though, a guy two doors down sings Christmas songs all year. Drives me nuts! Brings up all my lost hopes about my son. After what I done, I may never get to see him again. His foster parents won’t bring him here.
But I’ll tell you, where I live now, this new neighbor ain’t no singer. I’d like to wring his scrawny neck for bringing up all my memories and hopes for things that can’t be no more. I’d wring it tight, too, just like I done my wife’s, if I could just git out from behind these bars.
Points to ponder:
This First Person Point of View drives this piece. The person expressing his thoughts provides his own characterization.
About the story itself:
Did this inner-mind dialogue – the man’s stream of thoughts - help you to understand why the wife might have left him?
Further, do you see that this man has not learned his lesson? He’s behind bars because of what he did to his wife. If he wanted to get out and stay out, he wouldn’t be thinking about wringing another inmate’s neck.
The man himself becomes the voice in writing this piece. He is his own characterization. When creating characters, think whether a story would work in First Person, like this one.
Would you have enjoyed it more had I written it from my point of view and told you about his life? I really rather like the idea of all these thoughts coming right from the man’s mind. It’s more direct.
In this case, that's what makes it a Flash Fiction piece. For me to describe the scene would require much more narration as to become a short story, with much more detail. Flash is short and punchy.
All of the above summarizing I did of this story, I did when getting ready to post on this site. To my surprise, I realize the man’s innate character comes through loud and clear. Do you see it?
Further, stories like these are labeled “hard sell.” I believe I did a great job with the voice in writing this piece. Developing the man’s point of view provided a chance for great characterization. But this story may never sell.
That is, while such plots may emulate real life experiences and characterization, getting them accepted for publication is difficult.
Publishers and readers like stories with upbeat endings, or those that show the character experiencing an epiphany. The temperament of this character says that man may never have one, or it will be a long time coming.
Creating great voice in writing, and great characterization, does not make it a story people want to read.
Still, this story was a good exercise in writing very tight, brief Flash. Try one yourself to practice voice in writing. Your story doesn’t have to have negative connotations.