Ruminations Regarding Flash Fiction Part 2

Le chateau sous la pluie
Image by Sylvain Mercier via Flickr

I am enamored by the flash fiction form. (I think you might know this about me.)

It is also known as micro-fiction, postcard fiction, short-shorts, sudden fiction…the list goes on and on. It’s popular in China. Actually, it’s gaining popularity everywhere.

As far as I can tell, flash has been around for years and years. What are Aesop’s fables but brilliant flashes?

It has enjoyed a resurgence, and I believe the internet has had a huge influence. People’s attention spans are shorter, and I think that’s another factor. We live in the age of immediate information, deadlines and time crunches. In the time it takes to take a bus to work, wait for a doctor’s appointment or stand in line at Wally World, you can consume a flash or two.

There are sites that offer a subscription service of flash you are either emailed or you can download to a PDA. It’s amazing. Hey, whatever gets people to read.


What makes a good flash piece?


And how do you get there?

This is what I do.

Write it out. Write it ALL out; don’t think about word count right now, just blat out what it is you’re trying to say. The scene, the situation, the emotion, the transition. Whatever it is.

Then get out the scalpel and go to work.

That means cut the adverbs cut the adjectives. Cut, cut, cut until you’re bleeding profusely. Slice and dice, baby, until you’re down to the bone. The bare, white bone.

Now, depending on your word count limit, add a little here and there. Make every single word count. If it doesn’t advance your story, it has GOT TO GO.

Choose your words carefully. Depending on the style of your piece, don’t use huge words no one knows. In a flash piece, you don’t want to interrupt your reader to go find the dictionary to ferret out what “bricolage” means. Not to say use only simple words, I’m just saying you don’t want to disrupt the flow.

Flow is very important. The story should roll off the tongue like honey. It should feel like singing a song. The words should “feel” right when you read it – I can’t explain it any better than that. They should settle in your brain and heart, fill all the cracks and crevices, for that one brief flash of time.

Don’t be cute, unless you can pull it off well. (Few can.) Don’t be preachy, and please, please, watch spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Writing flash is like wearing spandex. You can’t hide a thing. It all shows. You either know what you’re doing, or you suck like a Hoover and you can’t hide it.

It’s structured, but liberating. It’s difficult, but when inspiration hits it’s like snow boarding down a mountain.

If it just wasn’t for that rash from wearing the spandex….

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4 thoughts on “Ruminations Regarding Flash Fiction Part 2

  1. I’m not so sure about all this cutting malarkey. To my mind a story should find its own natural length which is why the last piece I wrote was flash because I said what I had to say and got off the page. If I’d needed 5000 words to say it then fine. I think what I wound up with was about 300 and I hardly changed a word.

    As a general rule of thumb that is my policy, say what you have to say and get off the page. That’s also why I ended up writing my first novel because what I had to say wouldn’t fit into the poetry I had been writing up till then.

    Jim Murdochs last blog post..An interview with Anthony Barnett

  2. i’ve tended to write longer over shorter, but then i do suffer from diarrhoea of the fingers… 😉

    i think the idea that every word should count holds true in all fiction of all length; but it’s also true imho that this is probably more true (if such a thing is possible) with flash fiction. you can get away with a little waffle in a novel that you can’t in a piece of flash.

    and the cutting makes sense to me, simply because i’m of the understanding that you mean you’re cutting only those words that don’t help, don’t move the story forward, or actively hinder in some way. of course if the word/scene/lengthy aside works or suits the story, then keep it. but then to my mind that probably isn’t flash; that’s a short story. for me, flash is about the bare bones more than anything, be that a scene, an idea, an incident, or whatever.

    as always, very interesting.

    oh, and i do intend to get to your flash prompts at some point. i’ve been too caught up in longer stories (writing and contemplating) of late.



    rts last blog post..shimmer

  3. thanks for stopping by…

    jim, i agree that a story is as long as it has to be, but i know you’re not saying that you don’t edit. i know i have a habit of overusing adverbs and adjectives the first go-around, and i’m just putting out there what works for me. of course, it’s not going to work for everyone.

    and yes, rt, it’s all about advancing the story — after all, that is the point. to get *there*…from *here*…or the other way around. any word or phrase that doesn’t advance that is unnecessary, and has to be evaluated.

    that’s my two cents, anyway, and now i’m broke. heh.

    thanks again.

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