Flash Fiction

Short short story titles:

“The Wig” Brady Udall
“Night” Brett Lott
“Yogurt” Ronald Wallace
“Appointment in Samara” W. Somerset Maugham
“Deportation at Breakfast” Larry Fondation
“Popular Mechanics” Raymond Carver
“The Flowers” Alice Walker
“The Factory” Mary Dilworth
“Shock and Awe” Jane Smiley
“LZ Gator, Vietnam, February 1994″ Tim O’Brien

Flashes of Inspiration

Though the form is by definition extremely short, it [flash fiction] is not a medium that tolerates fragmented storytelling. The challenge of flash fiction is to tell a complete story in which every word is absolutely essential, to peel away the frills and lace until you’re left with nothing but the hard, clean-scraped core of a story.

Do not make the mistake of assuming that such bare-bones writing is less than elegant or beautiful. Sometimes beauty, or even inspiration, can be found in the simplest of things.

What makes a complete story? Lila Guzman, author of “Ask the Author”, once told me that a complete story is “A beginning, a middle and end.” How difficult is that?

When it comes to cramming such things into less space than the back of a playing card, it can be very difficult indeed.

The easiest way to write flash fiction, in my experience, is to let it all hang out. Throw yourself into your writing and crank out a beautiful story, regardless of the length. Then take a good long look at it.

Grab a red marker and slash out every adjective and adverb you can find. Your word count will diminish greatly. Run back through the story and read it aloud. Does it still make sense? You’ll be amazed at how much emotion and description can be conveyed by a story devoid of descriptive words.

Now grab that red pen again. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a definable plot? By this, go back to the comment made by Guzman. Can you identify the three simple parts of this story? Do you have a clear beginning? A strong centerpiece? A definitive ending? If you don’t, you’ve got nothing more than a snippet of a larger story. Start editing.
  • Does your story make its point and drive it home, hard? Most flash fiction stories, due to their abrupt beginnings and sudden endings, leave the reader breathless when finished. Though not all stories need to be forceful to fit into this small genre, it is a trend that has followed flash throughout the years. Still, if your story doesn’t have that hard-hitting theme and end by smacking into a wall, don’t worry; it’s not a necessity.
  • Is every word absolutely essential to the story? Or have you left unnecessary sentences here and there, or maybe a few unneeded descriptives? “The quick brown dog jumped over the lazy fox” is a vivid way of stating the facts, but think of it this way: You’re writing this story from margin to margin. Those margins are solid walls — there’s no going past them. Give yourself five lines, or ten if you’re less daring, and consider the first and last line your floor and ceiling. To tell your story, you’ve got to make the most of the space. “The dog jumped over the fox” leaves you with much more room to move forward, to expand.   – Jason Gurley  Flash What?  A Quick Look at Flash Fiction http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/flash.shtml