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Jayne Block : Flash Fiction - the art of compression

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Jayne Block’s account of writing flash fiction story, Triumph and Tribulation, published in Strata – Slices through the human landscape in November 2018.

Who would have thought that a writing exercise would end up being published?

As a newbie to Chalk Circle in spring 2018, I was invited to contribute to an anthology of flash fiction the other five members had been developing. I had a short story I liked that originated from a writing exercise where I had begun by writing a list of words beginning with the same 2 letters. For some reason I had chosen ‘Tr’ and came up with a list of 20 – from which I chose 3.

We were given 10 minutes to scribble down a story using all three of the chosen words - in my case, trip, triumph and tribulation. I decided to put my main character on a road-trip in the desert with a broken-down Triumph motorcycle, and after 2 minutes of anguished writer’s block a story evolved . . .

After the writing session, I liked the idea so much I expanded it to 1000 words – thus too long for the anthology; the limit for that was 350 words. I cut it back to what I thought were its barest bones. It was returned to me with the suggestion that if I could cut down even more it would work very well as the final story in the anthology.

Cut it down even more? I felt I had already given it a ‘savage’ cut, as my fellow writer, Judith Bruce would say, but I sat down at my computer and whittled away at it. I found that cutting it down kept the essence of the story but got rid of every superfluous detail. It was immensely satisfying.

Up until then, I had mainly been working on editing a 120,000 word novel involving sorting out plot flaws, character inconsistencies, grammar, style, pace – an endless list really. To have a story finished in so few words was a triumph in itself.

I am happy everyone liked it, and it now has pride of place as the last story in the anthology; a girl in a desert with a broken down motorbike while the sun is setting, wondering if she is ever going to get out of the goddamn place alive.

Jayne Block

If you'd to read Jayne's story, copies of STRATA at £5 each are available to buy from Skylark Bookshop in Lewes, Much Ado Books in Alfriston and The Steyning Bookshop or by contacting Chalk Circle at

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