Wednesday, September 16, 2009

from Ethel Rohan

The Tremendous In The Tiny

In many ways I’ve changed three-hundred-and-sixty degrees as a writer. I’ve gone from writing two novel manuscripts, three partial novel manuscripts, some thirty-plus short stories over the course of a decade, to now favoring Flash and Micro Fiction. In the past twelve months I’ve written well over a hundred Flashes, publishing close to eighty to date, and still feel like I’m only warming-up.

Early in my writing career, my stories came from an image or character I’d observed or remembered, or that somehow popped into my mind, taking seed. I wrote slowly, liking to “perfect” each line before I moved onto the next. I didn’t use prompts or exercises, but pulled from my memory and imagination. I liked to know where I was “going” in the work, and took my sweet time getting there. That’s also all changed.

Today my Flash stories are still triggered by the observed, imagined, or remembered image or character. However, now for my first drafts, I also use prompt words gleaned from whatever poem, Flash, story, novel, or song lyrics inspires me and write as fast as I can, free of that inner critic, tapping into my sub-conscious, and letting everything spill uncensored onto the page.

I write the Flash in one sitting, put it aside for at least a day, and return to it with fresh eyes, finding its heart, its conflict and resolution. My goal is to revise the Flash to the point where every word counts, where there’s trouble and strangeness, where every expectation is twisted, where there’s a satisfying end, where the work is, hopefully, electrifying.

You can read some of what I believe to be my more successful published Flashes to date here:

Under Water,” Monkeybicycle

Babies On The Shore,” PANK

Rocket Into A Pocket,” (So New) Necessary Fiction

Myfawny Collins and Kathy Fish, to name just two of the best contemporary Flash writers in our midst, both had enormous influence on my growth as a Flash writer. Go read their work. Study how they do what they do. You’ll learn far more from their Flash stories than you ever will from reading this essay. Good Luck!

BIO: Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from elimae; PANK; Wigleaf; Storyglossia; Monkeybicycle; Word Riot; mud luscious; Staccato Fiction; (So New) Necessary Fiction, and many others. She blogs at


  1. Ethel, we have so much in common! Great write-up. David

  2. I went from spending 4 + years writing ONLY a novel to writing flash. And it's felt so liberating. I totally agree. Only for some reason I've never really liked using prompt words for my writing. It just doesn't inspire me.