If you haven’t written your story yet for Fiction 440, you’ll have plenty of time because these stories are short – really short.
What is Fiction 440? Well, it is a flash fiction series in the Greater Lansing area. About once a month, the members of the group write an original story of no more than 440 words.
The only restrictions are that it must be less than 440 words, it cannot be poetry or an excerpt from a larger work and it must contain a set of predetermined prompts. For most sessions, these prompts are three words that the writers must work into their stories. They have also had themed prompts, like music. The most recent prompt is that the stories must contain the character of Bartleby, of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.”
“The idea is to get people to be creative,” Aaron Matthews, Lansing resident and creator of Fiction 440, said. “Creativity fosters many other positive things in the community; entrepreneurism, perhaps people taking a little more interest in the community. Who doesn’t want the community to be more creative?”
Matthews said he came up with the idea of a flash fiction series in 2010 after reading an article on a flight. He read about a flash fiction group in Chicago. While that group had somewhat different goals, Matthews thought it sounded like a great idea to bring something like that to the Lansing area.
While Fiction 440 may sound like a writer’s group, Matthews is quick to point out that it is a great outlet for people who are not professional writers and those who do not have a regular opportunity to write creatively. It is specifically not a contest, as Matthews wants people to have fun doing it.
“We try to keep it social, we want it to be laid back,” Matthews said. “We don’t want it to be your stereotypical poetry recital.”
And, it certainly is social. The group gathers after normal work hours, at a local bar or restaurant. They have a ‘social hour’ to start off the evening before anyone begins reading. Then, people are encouraged to get up and share their story in front of the group.
The group has not seen much stage fright since the first or second meeting. Everyone gets up to read and they are very encouraging to one another. The stories are put into three groups of between four to five stories a piece and there is a short break in between so people can go get another drink or some food.
Every meeting is completely open to join in and they are always looking to involve new people. For those who don’t think they have the writing chops, you are welcome to come listen to people read and just be social with the group. They post the times (and the creative prompts) for their next events on Facebook and on their website. You can also follow them on Twitter.
~ Jeremy Beyma, Feature Writer