[Write On Wednesday] Specific to Universal

The best stories move from the specific to the universal (or vice versa).

Flash fiction is a wonderful venue for practicing the short-story skill of moving from the specific to the universal.

Stories relate a specific event happening to a specific individual and how it affects them. The best stories also contain ideas that apply to the wider world: to you, to me, to society.

The Prompt

Write a flash fiction story (fewer than 1000 words), that moves from the specific to the universal or vice versa)

Tips

  • You can literally take your characters from being alone with their problem into a space where there are other people (try reading Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzales).
  • Or it could be a more metaphorical movement, from a contemplation of how the problem affects this character, to a rumination on these types of problems in the wider world.
  • You could echo the movement from the individual to the universal in the language you use, in the distance your writing takes from your protagonist (perhaps you start in close third person but the last section of your story moves further and further from your protagonist’s thoughts, or vice versa.)
  • You could offer a moment of reflection, a statement of the theme of your story, near the end. Perhaps this could be your last line, after the action/plot of the story has ended. But beware the temptation to write an Aesop’s-Fable-like motto.
  • You could reverse the direction: show a global problem and then zoom in on how it affects one family, one person, one moment.
  • Remember to choose a memorable image to use somewhere in your story, to help make it ‘flash’— to stay in the reader’s mind long after they’ve read your words.
  • You can boost the impact of that image by using similar imagery throughout (e.g. you might use water images). Just don’t overdo it so that your readers become like tourists at Disneyworld, searching for all the Hidden Mickeys!
  • Remember that the more specific the image/description, the more real it makes your story world feel.
  • The more universal the emotion, the more impact your story has.

Go!

Don’t forget to leave a comment telling us how you got on or what you learned. Feel free to link to your story if you post it online!

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