Last September, I did a masterclass on flash fiction with Kit de Waal. Kit is a really excellent presenter, very down to earth and full of useful tips and ideas that she was generous enough to share. She didn’t take up writing fiction until she was in her forties, after a career in criminal law and social care and as a magistrate. Her debut novel My Name is Leon was published in 2016 and became a bestseller.
When I turned up for the class, I didn’t really know much about flash fiction beyond the fact that it’s short. I now know that there are various forms and lengths, and also that there are also lots of places where you can publish flash fiction pieces and a number of prizes that look worth the effort to apply for.
It was a great masterclass, but I seemed to be the only person in the group who wasn’t aware that we were going to have to write an instant story of about 300 words while we were there. When she told us to start, I had no idea what I was going to write about.
I decided to use part of the storyline of the novel I started during my Creative Writing Masters at Birkbeck College. My MA dissertation consisted of the first seven chapters of a story called The Duke’s Portrait, which is mainly set in the late 1930s.
Amongst the many brilliant tips Kit gave us was to use the title of the piece to convey information that you don’t want to waste words on in the story itself.
So, here’s my first work of flash fiction. I hope you think it’s OK.
The Proposal, Lyme Regis (1936)
Another meal at a table for two in the bay window of the Belvedere Hotel and still Horace had failed to propose. Leonora decided to take matters into her own hands. There was nothing else for it – she would have to seduce him. While he was paying the bill, she excused herself and went to the Ladies Room. When she returned, her lipstick was redder, her eyeliner was darker and her neck was lathered in the last of the expensive perfume she had stolen from the shop in the high street.
She stood over him as he put his wallet in the inside pocket of his jacket.
“Horace,” she said. “Time is running out.”
“I’m sorry?” he replied.
“You’re nearly fifty, Horace. And I’m nearly forty.”
“Actually, I’m fifty-three — ”
She put her fingers to her lips. “The point it, neither of us is getting any younger. A girl has to think about her future.”
She sighed loudly. She thought about marching him upstairs to his room, but feared that he might cause a scene by whimpering like a puppy being take to the vet. Instead, she jerked him out of his chair and propelled him towards the revolving doors and out of the hotel.
The sun was setting over the Channel and it was still warm as she bundled him down the steps and onto the promenade. Along the beach was a line of red and white striped huts. Leonora linked arms with her reluctant partner and they stumbled off the promenade and onto the cooling sand. She tried the door of the first hut. It was unlocked.
She pushed him into the hut and onto a wooden chaise longue, closing the door behind her. With just a hint of menace in her voice, she said: “Horace, we have been shilly-shallying around quite enough. It’s time you made an honest woman out of me.”
She put her hands behind her and began to unzip her dress.
“What on earth are you doing?”
“I’m taking off my dress.”
She pulled the dress down over one shoulder.
“Please!” he pleaded. ‘No more!”
There was a moment’s silence. They stared at each other.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
You can find out more about flash fiction here.
You can find out more about flash fiction prizes here.
You can find out more about Kit de Waal’s flash fiction masterclass here.