Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ficly - Fiction a Kilobyte at a Time

photo by exlibris on flickr
Ficly is the reincarnation of Ficlets, a writing group that had its origins on AOL. Members write fiction whose length must be no shorter than 60 characters and no longer than 1024 characters.

That's characters, not words. Ficlys can be poetry or prose; the length is the only requirement. Ficlys tend to be tighly organised, highly focused pieces with a bit of a punch at the end. At least, my favourites exhibit those characteristics. Take "Random Walk", for example, the thoughts of a mathematician as his home is assaulted by the walking dead. I don't know about you, but math is about the last thing I expect in a zombie story. "Random Walk" is clever; it's foreboding, yet has a touch of humour that kept me from shivering at the prospect of a slowly-forming pile of zombie parts outside the narrator's house, providing the necessary pathway for them to reach him.

I hope to use Ficly as a place to stretch my short fiction and poetry muscles. As I've mentioned, I find the shortest forms the most challenging and also the most rewarding. I can write poetry, generally without a fantastic amount of difficulty, and I've written it on demand before. Yet very short prose is more difficult. The questions of how to build a piece that indicates character, plot, setting, all in 1024 characters. The scope is very narrow. "Random Walk" doesn't delve into the psyche of the narrator, nor the history of the town or how some of the zombies outside might well be his childhood friend or his (formerly) kindly old neighbour. The focus is on the zombie pile and the equations which tell the narrator how long he has left.

Will he find a way to escape? How did this zombie thing start, anyway? The author of "Random Walk" hasn't written those things, at least not yet. But you could. Joining Ficly is free and utilises a signup process that I haven't seen elsewhere on the net: you can't create a new Ficly ID on the site, but you can sign in using your Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or OpenID accounts. And Ficly members can create prequels and sequels to any story they find on the site.

Ficly is a great place to drop in over lunch and bang out a little bit of something creative, or read some of the same. Go have a look. The stories are short, but that just makes it easier to read more of them. Pace yourself. Ficly's been around in its current form for about a year and in that time its members have written a lot of stuff. The bite-sized stories may end up filling your belly faster than you'd anticipated.

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