Thursday, 1 July 2010

Flash... aha!

I have been Bugging today. Last week I blogged about a project called 'Bugged' where the idea is to head out into the world, listen in on fellow humans, and use the overheard words as source materials for writing. The day for listening is today, so that's what I've been doing.

At first it was frustrating, lunch in the pub had seemed like a good idea, but the pub was almost empty so sitting close enough to someone to hear what they were saying would have been far too obvious. A trip round Morrison's gave me a few choice titbits, but not very much. I am also planning a trip to the pub tonight, but after lunchtime I didn't want to leave it to chance, so I headed into the town centre to do some lurking.

I found myself, at times, alongside people who had stopped to have a proper chat, but these weren't always that fruitful. It's not easy to pick a particular phrase when you have the full conversation, and being given context and background makes those phrase less inspiring. The best ones were snippets overheard from people walking past, mid-conversation: "People come and talk to me.", "I'll ring that lot and tell them we'll just leave it.", "And then it goes all criss-cross which is why I like it."

However, amongst these more interesting eavesdroppings, I was slightly disappointed at how much was mundane: "Okay, I'll call you later." and, of course, "I need a wee." But then I realised that it was only mundane in the original context. In the hands of a writer, even these things could be given new life. It was at that point that I realised how wonderful an exercise this was for generating prompts for flash fiction.

For those who don't know, flash fiction is very short fiction (mostly fewer than 500 words), written with no planning, in a single sitting, usually with a time limit, and from a prompt of some kind. The idea is to start from the prompt and simply see where the story takes you. It is a great way of getting started in the morning and often takes you to places you didn't expect. Writers gather words, phrases and images to use as prompts, and it occurred to me, as I lurked in the town centre, that 'bugging' is a great way of generating them.

I have gathered about a dozen phrases today, and hope to get some more tonight, and I plan to use my favourite to write a story for the Bugged project. But I will keep all the others, and when the urge to write a flash comes over me, I shall refer back to them, heading out and replenishing the list whenever it runs low. It provides you with material which is inspiring, intriguing, and wonderfully random. And, best of all, coming from others, they start you in places outside of your usual thought processes, always useful for making your writing more interesting and varied.

If you haven't been out and Bugged today, there's still time. For more info on the project, go to or visit 'Bugged' on Facebook.

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