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#WritingCommunity, What is Your Process for Writing Fiction ?

Writing fiction can be so soothing when life goes upside down--it affords a place to retreat into, a world where things are in your control, where the good guys can win if you so choose.

Writing fiction can be so soothing when life goes upside down--it affords a place to retreat into, a world where things are in your control, where the good guys can win if you so choose.Writing fiction can be so soothing when life goes upside down–it affords a place to retreat into, a world where things are in your control, where the good guys can win if you so choose.

To me writing fiction is also a stress-relief exercise–it is fun to choose two prompts, a picture, a word or two, and come up with a tiny story.

This is what I’ve done, time and again, for all my flash fiction. Sometimes, it has been sparked by a phrase, at others, weird things like something I snacked on.

A Spicy Chica was published four years ago, and I’m sharing it with you again today. I wrote it while eating chana jor garam, an Indian snack, and my word prompt was, ‘chica’.

I heard a strange, lilt-ey man speak inside my head, and I took down the dictation. It was one of those crazy pieces that come to you from nowhere, all perfectly formed.

Buy yourself some black garbanzo beans. Soak ’em overnight. Well, eight to ten hours, at any rate. Then cook ’em till they’re soft. I don’t know, soft, like the insides of her elbow, or her nipples, man.

How does this help you get her? Wait, I’m coming to that. Once they’re soft, pound each bean flat. Yeah, yeah, exactly like that, but chill dude, tons of work to do before you get there with her.

So now you’ve got your flat chickpeas, borrow your Mom’s frying pan, and fry ’em up with salt and pepper. Don’t burn them, now. I know you’re burnin’ up dude, but hold it right there. Too much work? Of course, it’s work. You want her or not? No, this is no dumb voodoo shit. Relax.

Once you have ’em fried, set aside to cool, chop yourself some onion and tomatoes, squeeze some lime on it and pepper and salt and chilli flakes. Give it a good ole shake. Chop them as fine as you can, mind. Ask your sister to do it for you.

Now here’s the important part. Put your fries and your tomato stuff in different ziplock bags, or you’ll screw it up before you get there. Soggy, yes. And you don’t want yourself no soggy love.

Call her some place, tell her you have a surprise, and then mix those two up in a bowl — strain off the tomato bag if it’s watery: one thing you don’t want wet.

Walk to her like a man bearing a gift, yeah, strut up all chilled-out like. You know how to do it, you’ve watched me ’bout a hundred times. Give ’em to her, tell her you made it all by yourself. Sure you had some help from your Mum, your sis and me. But you’re not gonna tell her that. Watch her smile, egg her on with the most syrupy grin you got, yeah exactly like that.

Keep smiling, and once she puts the first spoon in her mouth, you watch her. If you done it right, she’ll close her eyes, throw her head back a little, chew slowly, and go mmmm. Remember that face now. If she don’t do that when in the bed, or the sofa, or the car seat with you, you ain’t doing it right.

Yeah, I know, don’t kiss her after she eats all that, the onions won’t do her breath no favors. But she would do you some, oh yeah baby she will.

And you know what, maybe just kiss her anyway, cos you take a girl, you take her. Slobber, bad smells and all. And she takes you the same. You like her, you keep her. You treat her right. Make these beans for her every time she’s low, or if she’s fat with your child.

Don’t laugh, don’t nothing surprise me now. Look at me, married ten years man, and yo’ sister the one who taught me. You don’t think this one’s for you, you let her go, soft and easy. No call to hurt no girl, right? And that, my man, is how you get a spicy chica, this is how you woo her.

I keep writing stories like that from time to time, and recently, I’ve begun submitting them again. I’ll have a piece up soon in Crack the Spine Literary magazine.)

My writing and reading gazettes have received a ton of subscriptions in the last week–so thank you to everyone who signed up. I hope the gazettes are useful. (If you’re a reader, or a writer, and you haven’t seen them yet, you can find out more.)

Both writing fiction and reading it can be challenging on some days–the gazettes help you rise to the challenge. SUBSCRIBE HERE, to get monthly curated resources on writing and reading, via emails which would drop into your inbox around the 10th of each month.

Have you been writing fiction? Reading fiction? What do you think of A Spicy Chica ? Are you already subscribed to one of my gazettes? Has it been helpful?  Have you added your recent publications to this post?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • soniadogra says:

    You made me smile. You are truly talented Damyanti. I really like what you write.
    I’m trying to do some stories nowadays. Testing how long I can go on before poetry calls me home.

  • “Chica” is a great story. Pulled me right in!

  • Vinitha says:

    I love your fictions, Damyanti. It’s been too long since I published a fictional post. Something to get to in the near future. Thanks for the inspiration, Damyanti! 🙂

  • writershilpa says:

    I had this big grin on my face right from the word go. D, how do you do it?
    The week before last, I began writing fiction again…after more than a year. I began with the Friday Fictioneers. And, it feels so good! You are right…writing fiction when things are not going right is quite a de-stressor. At least in our stories things go right, there are happy endings, and all’s fine with the world. 🙂

    You inspired me to write for today’s prompt!

  • Balaka says:

    This was such a naughty story. I had a smile all through. Thanks for making me smile on an otherwise gloomy day.

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    If only chana would inspire me to write like this. Loved the narration… But do beans really work ? it’s a pleasure to read your short stories. Always a fan!

  • mitchteemley says:

    Love the story, Damyanti. Such a vivid character.

  • Thanks for the link to Crack the Spine. Turns out some of my ‘scribblings’ might be flash fiction and I might submit some of my work!

  • At that young age onion smell on the breath of the one you have the hots for is not a distraction in the need for a good kiss! LOL. Well done again Damyanti 🙂 There is nothing structured in a fictional story that plagues me until I write it down as it unfolds in my mind. However relating it to time and place does require research on the internet before finalizing my first draft to be pored over and over again until I’m game to blog it. 🙂 I still edit stories I wrote years ago as there’s always something that can be improved.

  • Elyan White says:

    Holy crap. If I could carry this story word by word in my head for the rest of my life, I would. Smooth, spicy and bigger on the inside. Fantastic!

  • Rahul Bhatia says:

    Loved reading this one!

  • JT Twissel says:

    You have the ability to put yourself into your character’s head. Fiction is never really fiction – we draw our characters from real live experiences or, as I suspect in your case, a great deal of empathy.

  • Bumba says:

    Nice article, but your relaxing is done via the garbanzo beans, not the writing. I always found writing and editing, and rewriting and editing again etc, kinda like work. As for the garbanzos, the therapeutiuc effects of hummous and those fried garbanzos you so charmingly describe are undeniable. On the other hand, falafel ain’t easy to make, and gets me a little bit stressed.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Haha yes, writing is a lot of work, but I don’t resent it as much because it can be a meaningful retreat from real life.

      I’m not great with cooking, but I steam garbanzo beans for salads often.

      • Bumba says:

        I guess I’m not seeking escape or relaxation, it’s just trying to create something nice or artful. The hummus is very tricky to get right or artful, tho.

  • Thank you for this post, Damyanti. Honestly, I enter one of two processes with respect to fiction. (1.) I seek out calls for fiction (or competitions), so I write directly toward the criteria of that content or call. For example, if there’s an interesting-to-me call, let’s say for under 5K stories about “horror at the drive-in movies,” then I brainstorm on that topic and if I come up with something good I enter higher-level thinking and planning and writing toward that topic/publication/deadline. (2.) The second process is that, because I have written a good amount of as-yet-unpublished fiction, I keep a database of these (with specifics as to length, genre or subgenre, theme and shading) and, if any are applicable to existing calls or can be easily adapted, I enter into consideration of how to get this piece ready for that call. So, it’s kind of a match game sometimes. Of course, there are more specifics, but this is your blog, where people come to read your techniques and your fiction–that’s why I’m here! So I won’t bloviate further on my processes! 🙂
    My in-joke, which I understand a lot of writers and creative people share, is that I do my best writing without paper or pen, when I’m in the shower, sitting down to read the newspaper or another book, or whilst on the edge of dreaming. Sometimes…precious few times, like you did with “A Spicy Chica” … a character will narrate for me and I can get it down close to his/her/their words and at their cellular or skeleton level. Those are fun moments, aren’t they? BTW, I enjoyed the voicing of your story, and wish you and wonderful writing week, Damyanti!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Leigh!

      I find it fascinating that you can write to theme—that’s one skill I’m jealous of. I can never choose what to write—it chooses me.

      I agree that perfect dictations are rare and fortunate, but I keep practicing and being present, so that I can be there if it arrives 🙂

      • It’s maybe a symptom of having been in journalism (and in some of my business writing). Sometimes you had assignments where you just had to do it, regardless of whether you were inspired by or interested in the subject matter, you know? I wish I had more times when the writing chose me, but it usually doesn’t work that way for me in any major way–it’s kind of a dribble here and a drop there, then I have to will it into being. Then again, I could be doing it all wrong by writing to theme(s)! 🙂

  • DutchIl says:

    Well, I am not a writer as a profession but whatever writing I would do would be done in the same manner… find a quiet time and place and let the fingers do the walking (typing) and the heart do the talking!!.. 🙂

  • hilarymb says:

    Brilliant Damyanti – loved it … now it’s nearly supper time here my mouth is watering … so I’ll start winding down – take care – and yes I’ll be there for #WATWB – cheers Hilary

  • Gargi Mehra says:

    Great story Damyanti! I always enjoy your flash fiction and especially like this one.
    I haven’t written a lot of fiction lately but I’m trying hard to get back in the groove.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Gargi. So kind of you to read.

      I hope you get back to the fiction groove soon–I know how not being in it feels, from time to time.

  • jlcanfield says:

    Well Done! I could visualize this man in my head wooing me with food. Loved it!

  • How wonderfully sensual in unexpected ways. 🙂 I wrote my first flash piece a few weeks ago, but it’s a non-fiction, so I’m a bit nervous about trying to find a publisher. I suppose I could pass if off as fiction, even though it was based on a real event. But mainly I’m just new to submissions processes and searches. Out of my comfort zone considering I normally write dark fantasy novels, I guess. >.< LoL …

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Non-fiction with a personal slant is scary, and I’m only just beginning to dip my feet into it. Congratulations on your first flash piece–pls get it read, and send out to publishers, and yep, you could definitely pass it off as fiction. I send out monthly gazettes with call for submissions, and there are tons of calls if you get a Submittable account. Hit me up if you need info.

  • I have no idea how to write flash fiction, or anything off-the-cuff like this. It’s wonderful, filled with emotion and substance. I am way to rigid. Good on you, Damyanti!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Jacqui. I do well with off-the-cuff things. Planning is what kills me.

      We all have our strengths–I’ve read your novels–they’re unusual, very well-written, and need to be read far and wide!

  • cleemckenzie says:

    I agree that writing fiction can be a retreat until I can’t get the words right; then I’m in writing hell. Thanks for the flash fiction. It’s interesting what prompts will conjure up.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Writing is always a retreat for me, even when I can’t get the words, because it takes me away from the real world in insightful ways. Sometimes the world is much too real for me. My writing hell is mostly edits.

  • DJ Cockburn says:

    With flash, I tend to just start with an idea or a prompt and see what happens. A time limit can be useful to make sure it stays tight. Anything longer needs some planning, involving a lot of scribbling of outlines on pieces of paper and character mapping to make sure everyone has the personality to do what I need them to do. The there’s the first draft, followed by a lot of editing and multiple rewrites of the first sentence. Not forgetting the coffee. Lots of coffee.

    • DJ Cockburn says:

      And don’t post before you get round to writing about loving the idea of bean-related pickup artistry like I just did. Thanks for a great story!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, I never plan flashes. Come to think of it, not short stories either. I trie dthe same method with novels, and figured I needed a different process!

      I drink copious amount of tea as well, so I’m with you there on caffeine.

  • What a fun piece! Like food erotica almost. And what a great voice you conjured! I rarely write to prompts, except for those in my head, but I need to try more. I went to a conference in the springtime, and Tommy Dean taught a flash fiction workshop, where he gave us several prompt–and I got some decent writing out of it, even on the spot. You’ve reminded me to dig out that notebook. Thanks!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Rebecca! I think a lot of my short pieces come from writing on prompts–I use a visual and a word prompt together, as different from each other as possible, and in trying to connect them, something short-circuits in my subconscious and loosens words out.

      I hope your notebook provides renewed inspiration!

  • cath says:

    a great piece of flash, thanks for sharing it. And good advice, it’s so easy to slip into a rut. Congratulations on the submission to Crack the Spine, look forward to reading that, too.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So glad you liked it, Cath–it means a lot, coming from you.

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