Flash Fiction Step 3—Concept Illustration and Text Revision
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, here at Comic Book School, we’ll give you two. Each of our Flash Fiction pieces will be illuminated by our talented artists.
Now it’s time for the artists to shine as they begin to illustrate these amazing stories. During this step you will come up with the ideas for—and sketch rough images for—either one or two full-page illustrations, depending on the projected length of your story.
- 500-word story: 1 illustration
- 750-1000 word story: 2 illustrations
At the same time, the writers will continue to work on their drafts by engaging in the feedback and revision process on the (so alliterative it could have been named by Stan Lee) Flash Fiction Forum.
While some teams have already formed, there is still time to join the challenge, especially for artists. Register for the challenge and go to the story ideas forum to find a story that speaks to you.
Artists: Illustrating Flash Fiction
Each story in The Flash Fiction Challenge will be illuminated by one full-page illustration per page of text. Thus, you will either be drawing either one image or two images, depending on the length of the story. At this point, you are coming up with a concept and roughing it out. You will continue to work on the illustration over the rest of the challenge.
Start by reading the rough draft of the story. Review the pitch as well. What drew you to the story? What scenes speak to you? Remember, that the point of these illustrations is to illuminate the story, to shine a light on a particular character or scene. The illustration should grab the reader’s attention, but not spoil the story, especially if it relies on a twist ending.
Choose an intriguing or exciting scene, something that makes the reader want to know more. Illustrating a flash fiction story differs from illustrating a comic in that the main burden of storytelling is not on you as the artist. Your job is not to tell the entire story, it is to make the reader want to read the rest of the story.
Post your concepts to the Step 3 folder in the forums.
Artists: An Example from Our Last Anthology
Mike Ponce, who illustrated The Duel, the short story I wrote for last year’s challenge, says, “I feel like flash fiction is different in that you’re looking for the most compelling panel on an entire page and trying to bring that sense of scale to one all-encompassing panel. My mind had organically already visualized the story so vividly due to your storytelling that I had already seen two or three scenes in my head for how the town would look, and what particularly intrigued me was the concept of showing the point where reality just begins to ‘break,’ so I aimed for that. I knew I wanted the wild west aesthetic along with a kind of bombastic power struggle that does our rivals justice in portraying them as the big boys in town, so to speak.”
The illustration (or illustrations) for the challenge, are similar to covers in that they are full-page images designed to draw the reader in and make them want to read the story, but the challenge is really inspired by the interior art which accompanied stories in the old pulp magazines and Joseph Mugnaini’s illustrations that accompanied each of the stories in Ray Bradbury’s The October Country.
Remember that, at this stage, you are posting penciled roughs, not completed sketches. You will continue to revise and refine your drawing/s as the challenge progresses based on the feedback from our community on the forums. You should also keep in touch with your writers the story continues to be developed.
Writers: Revising Your Prose
By now, you should have posted your rough draft on the step 2 forum. Your revisions will go into the Flash Fiction Step #3 folder in the forums.
Most likely, you have already begun to receive feedback on your story, including suggestions for revision. During this step of the challenge, you should be revising and refining your story, focusing on improving the structure, language, and characterization. At this point, you shouldn’t be that concerned with proofreading and grammar—or even hitting the wordcount (beyond the general length of the story so your artist knows how many pages they need to draw)—there will be time for that later. Instead, focus on telling the story you want to tell, and making sure that the ideas in your head are translating to the page.
In addition to fixing plot holes, enhancing characterization, and eliminating confusing language, here are some of my favorite revision strategies. Consider employing them along with the feedback you receive from the forums.
Consider where to begin your story: Many writers write their initial draft chronologically. This makes sense, since, to quote the great Terry Pratchett, “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Once you’ve done this however—once you know what happens—you may want to consider starting the story In Medias Res (In the middle of things). Choose an important or exciting moment that will excite the reader and draw them into the story, or choose an important thematic moment that you want to highlight right off the bat, or come back to at the end of the story. Now that you know what happens, you can decide the order in which you want to tell it, what you want to reveal, and what you want to withhold.
Consider moving pieces of your story around and playing with structure: One of the most effective revision strategies does not involve rewriting any actual text. I’ve found that moving entire paragraphs up or down in the story can have a profound impact on how the story reads. Similar to the first strategy, moving paragraphs around—literally cutting and pasting them like a puzzle—allows the writer to play with structure, explore the effects of juxtaposition, and control what is revealed at different points in the story.
This strategy is really easy to do with cut/paste and Control Z. You can make changes quickly, and then undo them if you don’t like them. You can also save multiple versions of your story and post them to the forums. The theme of the anthology invites creative uses of time and structure, and modern technology makes experimenting with these elements easy.
Consider revising cliched language and figures. Your first draft probably includes some cliches: overused descriptions or figures. Read through your story to find your cliches, and rewrite them with more interesting, striking, on unusual language. For example, it would be cliched to describe stars “like diamonds in the night sky.” Try to find a more original simile, like Terry Pratchett does in the opening of Equal Rites, where he describes the stars as “dandruff on the shoulders of God.”
Written by Comic Book School Fiction Editor A. A. Rubin. On Twitter: @TheSurrealAri.
How to Participate
Register for the challenge, review the creative prompt, and start brainstorming on the boards.
We hope you will take on the flash fiction challenge. We’ll see you on the boards…and in The Time Inn.
Writers: Writing is rewriting. Continue to work on your prose. Solicit and offer feedback, and post your progress on the flash fiction forum.
Artists: Find a story idea that you want to draw, and post your concept sketches here in Step 3.
Questions? Contact our editor A.A. Rubin on the Flash Fiction Forum.