Two Easy Foolproof Tricks on Writing Flash Fiction When Not a Single Idea Crosses Your Mind

Take some advice from T. C. History Gal. Get past the white screen by studying history.

Route 66 diner Mr. D's

How to Get Past the White Screen Syndrome

Have you tried writing Flash Fiction? Do you suffer from white screen syndrome?

I do.

Why I hate writing Flash Fiction

I love to write, but for me fiction writing on command is like test-taking.

Years ago my dad took pictures of his teddy bear doing silly things. My job was to write a story about Teddy’s antics. In reality Teddy just sat there with a dumb grin on his fuzzy face doing nothing. He/she/it sparked nothing. Teddy had no background, no name and the pictures were only so so.

To please Dad, I tried and tried to write something. No results

He’d ask me how it was going. I’d try again. Nothing.

Finally even Dad gave up on making a million from his cute Teddy pictures and my adoring story.

I thought I would go back to it after Dad died as sort of the last legacy for his the 10,000 slides he bequeathed me.

Blank.

That was before the internet.

Two Tricks So Simple Your Pre-schooler Third-Grader Could Do It

Trick #1 Ask Google

  • If you can’t make up something, find out what really happened.
  • Everything has a background, even Dad’s Teddy.
  • Wikipedia is amazing. Wiki has researched it and given you links to trace back anything.
  • If you’ve never been to a place, fear not. Google has been there and taken pictures.

Trick #2 Read Another Entry

  • Don’t be the first to enter a challenge.
  • Reading other entries will not only spark your imagination, it will encourage the other person
  • It will grow your blog traffic.
  • It will grow your challenger’s blog traffic and make them look upon you more kindly than a random participant.
  • It’s fun.
Flash Fiction Routte 66

My Non-Flash Fiction Entry

In a stranger’s comment box I wrote. I even spelled her nickname wrong. It has 3 o’s.

Hi Sooz, I read Debby’s Flash non-fiction entry and thought I check out your website. Nat King Cole Trio recorded Get Your Kicks on Route 66 in I946 before there were 45s, before there were interstate highways, and before most of us were born. ………   

I’m sorry I got distracted researching about Route 66 in the middle of my comment. My husband and I talked about it, and we found out that Bobby Troup had intended to write about US 40, but his wife pointed out that Kicks rhymes with six, so he changed his tune.

We wondered together what kind of kicks they were getting on Route 66 in 1946. On the Historic Route 66 website –  https://www.historic66.com/, we scrolled through countless events going on from Chicago to Santa Monica – car shows, the battle of the bands, museums, art fairs, Octoberfest, just to name a few. In 2020, you can get your kicks on Historic Route 66 every weekend and most weekdays from June through December 31. Only a few of them have been canceled due to CVD – 19. 

The Route started in 1926, the year my parents were born, to create a road from an 1857 wagon trail. Some of it would not be paved until 1938. Before it was paved fights erupted between politicians over naming the road 66 rather than 60 or 62. Some things never change.

Can you imagine the excitement when the road was finally completed? Publicity for the road started with a footrace schedule in 1928 from Los Angeles to New York. The $25,000 prize was more money than winning the lottery dream home is today. Runners got, even more, kicks when they met movie stars stationed along the way. Will Rogers got involved in the scheme integrally tying his name to the highway’s legend. 

Then the Dust Bowl forced hundreds of thousands onto the flat highway to escape their bad fortune in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas seek prosperity in California. History tells us the road was hard to travel. John Steinbeck’s penned his famous Grapes of Wrath novel blemishing Bakersfield and Visalia, CA so much that the book was banned for several years. 

Teenagers sat google-eyed two feet from the television drooling over Martin Milner and George Maharis as the two handsome guys in their classy Corvette got their kicks on Route 66.

But your readers can learn all of this from Wikipedia and put flash fiction magic into a scene somewhere along the 2,488-mile road and at some time between 1926 and today. The historic highway has captured the imagination of many creative people, event planners,  photographers, songwriters, authors, runners, restaurant lovers. No fountain of creativity springs out of my head onto the computer screen when I see a road sign. Nothing trickled through my synapses – except curiosity. And now, until I can no longer use my brain, I will know more about Route 66 because of a picture of a sign on your website and my blank, uncreative mind. So thank you for that suggestion that kept me reading and writing for over an hour, not approaching the 750-word mark. It may be the longest comment I have ever left in my life. I hope you and your readers enjoyed the fruits of my curiosity. And now we know the roots of Route 66. 

Marsha Ingrao Always Write
Mr. D's Diner near Kingman on Route 66

Her Response

Soooz

Marsha, thank you so much for this comment. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this iconic location. I’ll include this on the entries blog post as a non-fiction comment. Again, thanks so much for participating.

Suzanne Burke AKA Soooz

My First Attempt at Flash Fiction

Get Your Kicks Right Here

“Cinnie, settle down back there. Where’s Teddy?” Bobby smiled at his two-year-old bundle of energy. “Put your blankie over you and cuddle up with Teddy.”

The bathroom break took forty-five minutes but Bobby didn’t care. He winked and grinned at his wife as they pulled away from the gas station. He was going to be a movie star.

“Are we almost there yet?” Cinnie asked bouncing up from her mattress laid across the back seat of the 1941 Buick.

“Honey, sit back down. Do you want a fruit cup?”

She and Bobby dreamed of going to California. He wanted to write songs after he got out of the military.

It was early May of 1946. Cynthia was due in late June. Bobby suggested they take a cross-country trip and check out Hollywood possibilities before she had the baby. Cynthia could barely turn around and touch Cinnie in the back seat.

“How long do you think it will take, Bobby?”

“It will be quicker if we take US 40 all the way to San Francisco,” he answered. 

“True, but I’ve always wanted to see what the big deal was about Route 66, too.”

Cynthia handed Cinnie her book, The Carrot Seed. Tiny fingers thumbed through the well-worn pages as Cinnie recited the words to herself.

“She’s such a good girl. I can’t imagine doing this trip with a baby, too,” Bobby smiled, his white teeth flashing as he handed Cynthia the map.

“I can’t imagine trying to get this map to lie down flat on a a stomach bigger than all of Cinnie.” 

Cynthia punched the map, wrestling with the folds, turning it right side up to read the names all the small towns they would be going through. She trailed her finger trail along Route 66 reading the names out loud.

“Galena, Tulsa, Elk City. I wonder if we could get some pictures of elk. Shamrock, Amarillo, Tucumcari. I really want to go on Route 66, Bobby.”

On the third day away from home, the threesome drove through the green corridor from Pennsylvania to the Smokey Mountains. At lunchtime, they pulled to the side of the road and took out their sandwiches. Other lunchers stepped out of their cars and snapped pictures of their babies on the backs of the wild bears who had come to the road for food.

“Me want big bear, Daddy.” Cinnie jumped on her mattress, hitting her head on the headliner of the Buick.

“Too dangerous, Cinnie. We need to go. Let’s sing a song. Better, let’s write a song about our trip. Which one, Westward Ho on US 40 – Let’s Go or Motor Best on Sporty Forty?” 

Bobby couldn’t get the crazy tune out of his head. Over and over he sang, “If you ever plan to motor west, Travel my way, take the highway, that’s the best. US Forty, Forty, Forty it’s so sporty, sporty, sporty.

Cinnie chortled. “No, no, no. Sing journey song.”

Bobbie cruned, “‘Gonna take a sentimental journey. Gonna set my heart at ease.” That one, Cinnie? That’s what we’re doing.”

Cinnie sang along until she fell asleep.

Two days later they had to make a decision, to finish the trip on US 40 or veer off onto Route 66. A cool, dry breeze blew through the open windows. Cynthia felt bigger than when she had left home. Cinnie woke up from a nap and laughed as a gust of air blew up Cynthia’s skirt almost blowing the rumpled map out the window.  

Cynthia patted her map and started reading city names, “Winslow, Flagstaff, Oatman, Amboy. What about Get Your Kicks on Route 66?” she said humming the first strand of Bobby’s song. “If you ever plan to motor west, Travel my way, take the highway, that’s the best. Get your kicks on Route 66. It rhymes.”

“It shore do, beautiful lady.” Bobby reached over and took her hand. “It winds from Chicago to L.A. More than 2000 miles all the way,”

Five days later they arrived in Los Angeles. Bobby and Cynthia finished the song. 

“I have a feeling this is going to be the one,” Bobby said as he wrote the last words in his journal. “Won’t you get hip to this timely tip When you make that California trip? Get your kicks on Route 66!”

And he was right.

Word count 728

It helps to know something about the topic before you start to write. Thank you Google and Wikipedia. Thank you Deb.

“Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Week #4. Image Prompt: Join in, have fun, and let loose your creative muse.#FictionInAFlash @pursoot @IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity.

Thanks for reading. Encourage others to write – pass it on.

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Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant - Promoting Hobby Blogging

14 thoughts on “Two Easy Foolproof Tricks on Writing Flash Fiction When Not a Single Idea Crosses Your Mind”

    1. When I am actively blogging I would be lost without one. I use print journal for other things including a prayer journal, and phone conversations, even keeping score with friends when we play cards. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How wonderful. I am starting a blogging journal – I can see the benefit of that. I used to keep a diary as a child into early adult hood but haven’t for years. I tried to keep one but it only lasted a short time of first waking thoughts. That would have been great except that writing before getting up only woke my husband so I gave it away.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Journals and diaries have so many different meanings and uses. I hope you can find a rhythm and time to use one. You have so many experiences in your life. It’s fun to see them in print. Your blog is a journal of sorts. 🙂 The first wire bound notebooks I kept were combination gripe sessions, poetry, book reviews, and lesson plan ideas. When I became a consultant, my work journals documented conversations with principals or teachers and observations of classrooms as well as to do lists. Today I use several journals, one for Bible reading and prayer, which doubles as a place for phone conversation notes (rather than scribbling the on scraps. A friend of mine used a journal to record card game scores. I stole that idea. Then I have my Google Doc journals for blog reading and research. I don’t journal in bed. I get up. 🙂 It would help if I had a brain, then I wouldn’t have to rely on my journal so much!!! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Writing books makes you feel like your brain is going to explode, there’s so much to remember. Even blogging makes you double and triple check. Journaling is relaxing. I only have to please myself. I’m almost done with American Dirt. It is very powerful, different from Enrique’s Journey. I have a friend whose life reads like this book. His father died when he was 10 and he escaped with his mother. I would never known, but his daughter created a History Day project about refugees and had a video interview of his early life. Have a great weekend, Irene.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. We all have stories but I am often amazed at the stories people have to tell that they don’t. I have written to Sonia but as yet not heard back. I am going to ask for an interlibrary loan so if it is in Australia it will be sourced for me. Hope your weekend has been good Marsha.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I am in the process of putting my book onto kindle and will send you a copy when it is done. The others should be available on kindle. I know what you mean – I am not buying any books these days preferring kindle – simply because of storage issues and occasionally when the book is so thick that I find I can no longer hold it with ease.

            Liked by 1 person

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