“Ready, and, begin!” the teacher intones from the front of the room.
I stare down at the blank paper, pencil in hand. Ugh! What sort of person decides that a creative fiction class should have an in-class final?
Okay, I know this. All we have to do is write a piece of flash fiction. And we’ve been studying it all semester. Let’s see here . . .
First, we need to establish setting. Or maybe characters. Every author does it differently. Oh man, that clock is going fast, and I’ve only got a half hour for this test!
Wait a second. I remember that one strategy is to start in the middle, in the action. Well, I’m here, panicking, as I’m trying to make it through the spring of my sophomore year. Summer’s only a few days around the corner, and this final is one of the dwindling number of barriers between me and sweet, balmy, outdoor freedom.
All right, my initial premise is settled – time to add some description to the setting. Sparing a quick glance up from my paper, I can gaze out across the sea of bent heads. The halogen lights, hung high above the stadium seats of the cavernous lecture hall, can’t compete with the bright sunlight streaming in through the tiny windows in back. Now, more than ever, that sunlight calls out to me with a siren song, tempting me from this paper. But I resist.
I’m sitting about halfway up in the large hall, at what I have deemed the optimal distance from our professor. I’m too far back to be called on for questions, and high enough so that he can’t see whether I’m taking notes or doodling pictures of that pretty girl that sits off to my right. I’m still close enough to the front, however, to be recognizable as a face in the crowd, to pick up those ever-helpful attendance and participation points. The know-it-alls sit in front of me, the slackers behind me.
Oh my god, fifteen minutes have gone by already!? This test is half over already! I know I have a problem sometimes with time management, but this is ridiculous!
Okay. Need to write. Now that I’ve got a setting, some description, I need to add a plot. Something has to happen. Or maybe something has already happened, and I fill it in with flashbacks or backstory. I gaze off, everything blurs, and I see the past as if I’m in a cheesy TV drama.
No, I can’t waste valuable time daydreaming right now! That pretty girl over on my right is writing really fast. She’s always got a good idea of what’s going on. Heather, her name is. I’ve been working up the courage all semester to go over and say hi, but I haven’t made a move yet. And I’ve tried, believe me. So many times I’ve headed for her as soon as the professor calls it a day. But I always freeze up – I have no witty opener, no million-watt smile to flash. And what would she, with her curly blonde hair, her sorority shirt, her drawstring bag, see in a guy like me?
Crap. Seven minutes left. All right, I’m going to ask out Heather after this test. I’m going to go up, give her a smile, ask her how it went. I’ll listen to everything she says, and she’ll see that I really am giving her my full attention. Coffee will turn into dinner, which will turn into drinks, and I’ll walk her all the way back to her house even though it’s across campus. I’ll shyly ask for her number, and send her a text saying good night. She’ll agree to go out again, and I’ll work to plan out the perfect evening.
Of course, you’ll never know if I follow through or not. That’s the downside to flash fiction; sometimes the resolution at the end is imperfect, whether due to running out of words, not having a fully developed story, or in my case, running out of time.
One minute left. Heather’s standing up to hand in her paper now. Looks like I’m done, too. I know it’s cliche, but I think stories should always end the same way – at least the happy stories. And I hope this turns out to be a happy story.