I love flash fiction, for those of you who can’t tell. Part of the reason is that I love writing in different genres and flash fiction allows me to do that effortlessly. Another reason is that I know that people live busy lives, and I love writing a story that anyone can read, no matter how little time they have in the day.
Recently, I’ve been considering putting together another flash fiction anthology like The Drabbles of a Dreamer, my first published book, but I want to do something different this next time. Colours gave me the chance to change things up, but it’s not really an anthology. Still, it’s closer to the kind of idea I’ve been playing around with.
One of my favourite things in storytelling is when the story has a legitimate reason to be there in an overall bigger narrative. It’s not just that someone’s telling you a story – it’s that this story actually means something to the world it takes place in. I don’t think I really knew about this fun trope until I started getting into Big Finish, a company with a team of exceptional writers who create all sorts of amazing audio dramas – and, once upon a time, books.
Short Trips: Repercussions, an anthology of flash fiction Doctor Who stories, was published by Big Finish in 2004 when Who wasn’t on air. Yes, I talk about the show a lot, but it’s for reasons such as this very post! This quirky sci-fi show consistently remains at the top of my list is because of the endless (and really, I mean endless) list of unique, well-written stories.
Repercussions is no different. As I was reading it, I literally felt a lightbulb go off in my brain. Another reason why I love Doctor Who is that I feel like my way of storytelling really aligns with that of the writers for the show (and all of its extended canon). I felt that once again as I was reading this anthology.
Long story short: it’s brilliant. I’m sure it’s not a brand new idea, but I’d never read anything like it before. It completely changed the way I thought about flash fiction anthologies, and here’s why. Each story has completely different characters, settings, and tones, yet they are all connected, and there is a story that continues between each short story in the anthology. It sounds confusing, but it’s actually flawless!
The main story is that Charlotte Pollard (Charley to her friends), the Eighth Doctor’s current travelling companion, wakes up and finds herself on an airship. It’s populated with all sorts of different people, and as Charley looks for the Doctor, she talks to everyone she comes across. Each person on the airship has a story to tell about the Doctor (which are the actual short stories), and they all have a theme in common. After one person tells their story, the book falls back to the original narrative with Charley and she talks to another person, leading into the next short story.
This is what I mean when I talk about a story having a reason to exist inside the narrative. It’s like story inception, and it just goes to that next level of immersion when it’s done correctly. I actually recently pitched a story like this because I love the idea so much! And that’s also one of the reasons why Short Trips: Repercussions immediately became one of my favourite books. It may be a collection of short stories, but in the overall narrative, there’s a reason for the collection to exist, and I just find it so fascinating when authors figure out a way to handle storytelling in that way.
This is what I aim to do in my next flash fiction anthology. Of course, I’ll change things up a little, but Repercussions has inspired me to push past the limits of what I’ve already done. It’s time to do something, new, different, and totally amazing.