flash fiction ghost story the tin can man

Flash Fiction Ghost Stories

Starting with ‘The Tin Can Man’ I want to use a short ghost story in the flash fiction style to serve as both an epilogue to my short story collections and a prelude to what we can expect to see in the next one.

flash fiction ghost story the tin can man

Whilst the feedback on Amazon for the first story collection has been overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly positive, people I have spoken to who’ve read it are often bewildered about the inclusion of the fourth short ghost story ‘The Tin Can Man’. Does it count? How does it relate to the other stories? What is its purpose?

These are the questions I have been asked, and I will try to answer them here.

Does it count?

Yes, of course it counts.

Flash Fiction is an excellent – if less well known – form of writing, that touches upon all sorts of traditional writing techniques: showing not telling; less is more; the iceberg.

Longer in form that 6 word or 2 sentence stories, but less substantial than a typical short story, flash fiction is defined by Writing World as a short but complete story. There is no official limit, with proponents arguing over anything from 15 to 1500 words as counting.

It is down to us then, to form our own definition.

Presumably, as long as we can interpret a beginning, middle and end, the story is complete, regardless of word count.

Another way of framing it might be quest, conflict and resolution.

If we look at ‘The Tin Can Man’ as an example, we can see the quest as the characters desire to show her findings to her parents. The conflict is her ascertaining their whereabouts, and the resolution is her inability to do so.

This story is told in 101 words, but that doesn’t make it any less of a story, or less of a ghost story.

The ambiguity and source of tension is present, what else is necessary?

To me, it counts as a type of bridge. ‘The Men in the Snow and Other Ghost Stories’ takes us through a period of history, and the final story is a signpost for things to come. The first story of the next collection, ‘The Cracks in the Statue’ is very much connected to the ghostliness of technology, and how we’ve all created a technological shell to hide within, but it is also about how we communicate, and what the result of poor communication is.

After all, traditional gothic literature, specifically Feminine Gothic, has been tied to the idea of communication breakdowns and the consequences that arise because of them.

How does it relate?

How then, do these words relate to both the rest of the collection and those still to come?

In many ways, a few of which I will explain here.

The first collection was entirely that, the first; the beginning; a chance for me to write more traditional ghost stories.

Now we move into the future, and it brings with it all of the technical innovation and psychology of 2015 and beyond. Something I am quite excited about.

How would the great writers have tackled stories like ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and ‘The Woman in Black’ if they’d have been written today, complete with Google Search, Facebook, and the current trendiness of mental health issues.

In a sense, we’ve been desensitized to everything in the world, apart from our own feelings, which are more anxious and more intense than ever.

This is what I will explore in the next collection, and this is what ‘The Tin Can Man’ helps to set up. He is the ghost that lives in the absence we feel in our hearts. Why else would we spend so much time examining the external, over the internal?

What purpose does the story serve?

Think of it as a trailer for the next instalment. I believe I will do this in each collection, to hint at the narrative themes present in upcoming work.

The ghost himself is – of course – a metaphor. In the story, he is represented by empty vessels: ashtrays, cider cans, and the parent’s bedroom. The Tin Can Man takes away somethings substance, so that only a shell is left, and you don’t notice as he erodes the soul and the body.

Certainly, this ghost is one to keep an eye out for, no matter how indirectly, in future writing.

The working title for the flash fiction epilogue/prelude in the next collection is ‘The Man Behind You’ and will work in much the same way, serving to establish the third collection, in which I intend to examine a less psychological, more masculine form of Gothic, in which the threat of violence becomes less and less of a threat…

A Final Note on Flash Fiction Ghost Stories

You’ve probably noticed the imagery I’ve been using on the site is hand-drawn and original.

I’ve been working with an illustrator to turn some of my very short snippets of writing into visual reflections of how we might show a ghost story, rather than tell it. He’s done some really great work, which you can see scattered about the site and collected on Pinterest.

Of course, it is the combination of text and imagery that creates a powerful picture, such as the two involving hearts, and I’m happy to say there is much more to come, so keep an eye out for that in the future.