Nutrition Facts for Hermit Crab Stories

Nutrition Facts
for Hermit Crab Stories 

Serving Size: One writer, one at a time
Number of Servings per container: Infinite
One subject the author feels moved to write about;
One desire to experiment or play;
One familiar form of writing that the author can
borrow for their story;
One imagination.
Calories (spent while writing) — 350 to 500*
Calories (consumed while writing) — 350 to 500**
Percentage (%) daily values
Subject                                                          15%
(These are flash stories, so keep your focus narrow.)
Borrowed Form                                            75%
(You want your reader to recognize the form immediately, but you should also feel free to play around, take literary license.) 
Narrative Arc                                               100%
(This is still a story with a central character and a clear beginning, middle, and end.)
Voice                                                              50%
(You’ll want your hermit crab to sound like the form you’re borrowing, but don’t abandon your own voice, either. This is still your story.)
Creative Exploration                                    50%
(Your borrowed shell is firm and imposes some limits; but wearing it enables you to wander further afield, play more, and find a fresh take on something familiar.)
Subject to Shell Matching Ratio                 ??%
(You might generate a nice frisson of resonance when subject and form share some symmetry. But it’s not necessary. Authors have written about romantic break-ups as auction item catalogue listings and WebMD entries, and I’m borrowing an FDA-regulated label for packaged food for a work on creative writing, so who knows, really?)
Key Sources of Inspiration
Flash fiction as obituary                                   100% ***
Flash essay as resume                                      100%
Flash fiction as Facebook group rules      100 %
Further reading                                                   100%              

† “A hermit crab essay borrows another form of writing as its structure the way a hermit crab borrows another’s shell. Its subject might be something soft or vulnerable, (like the crab) that seeks the form of something harder or more rigid to encase it. The form must be written but … something less literary and more utilitarian such as a list, recipe, field guide, instruction manual, address book, multiple-choice test, horoscope, Web MD entry…” — Randon Billings Noble

* Will vary based on how angsty a writer you are, and how many times during the writing process you stand up, pace, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, and clean your kitchen.
** See above.

*** If you recognize Deesha Philyaw’s story “Mayretta Kelly Brunson Williams Bryant Jones (1932-2012)” from last June’s Writing Advice, you get a gold star! If you don’t, because you didn’t read it then, consider this your second chance and take the hint.

Kelly Caldwell,

Dean of Faculty

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