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….