A flash narrative can be built around any idea, even something as simple as slicing carrots. This development of a narrative, complete with complex consequences but without intense action, is accomplished in “That Reminds Me” by Susan Jackson Rodgers, published in Quick Fiction 11. As writers, we can learn about the formation of a narrative through this unique example.
As the story opens, the narrator cuts carrots in her kitchen to prepare soup. But she is not really thinking about the physical act of cutting carrots, an activity so routine that it does not require any concentration at all. Instead, her mind is left to wander, create links between her free-falling thoughts, and assign meaning to her memories: “The carrots are just the beginning.”
She is struck by the fact that she slices her carrots on a diagonal, which reminds her of her former boyfriend who she taught to slice carrots on the diagonal too. So a story that starts from a single mundane act, without a cause-and-effect series of events, can blossom into a narrative.
The narrator flows from one thought to the next in a stream-of-consciousness style. Slicing carrots leads to the narrator’s relationship with Gerry, which leads to her relationship with Rick and his rocking Chinese cleaver, which leads to Rick and Gerry’s friendship, which leads back to slicing carrots. This forward momentum creates a plot for the story. Because cutting carrots is, of course, not an actual plot. But it’s also not what the story is really about.
Despite the inevitable change within the narrator’s intimate relationships, permanence is promised through the consistently used diagonal style of cutting carrots: “there will always be a time when I will once again slice a carrot, and you will come back to me.” Rodgers uses the story’s narrative structure to develop the theme. The circular structure, created by beginning and ending with the carrots, emulates the cyclical but changing nature of relationships and life in general, an idea central to the story. Also, the action underneath the carrot slicing, the inevitable demise of one intimate relationship and the eventual replacement with another, is also indicative of a cycle.
“That Reminds Me” is an especially interesting example of narrative structure because it employs the following techniques:
- One lone action, seemingly without consequence, can set off the cause-and-effect chain of events required for a narrative.
- The plot, which lies beneath the story’s outward action, is supplied through the narrator’s free associations.
- The circular structure of the narrative supports the story’s theme.
FF.Net Author’s Note
Indigo Phoenix is a novelist for tweens, teens, and new adults. She moderates the Flash Dance and Tweens & Teens forums at Writers’ Village University while pursuing her MFA degree at Rosemont College.