I came into writing late in life. I think I was forty-one or two (the years become hazy when you get past twenty-five) when I wrote my first short story, although I had written some pieces in high school and edited a newsletter for an insurance company I used to work for. Life before this time was very….confining, let’s say, and not conducive to the creative process.
I was lucky enough to fall into a great workshop for flash fiction. I also fell in love with that form.
There are many definitions of flash and it revolves around word count and content. Genre lines are blurred.
Let’s take word count first.
Word count for flash depends on who you’re talking to. Some publications (both online and print) describe flash fiction as a story under 1500 words. Under 1000. Under 750. Under 500.
Then you have your micro-fiction as a piece fewer than 500. Under 250. Under 100. Or even more whacked, at 55.
So, basically, if you write a story under 1500 words, chances are it’s flash.
As far as content –
The traditional outlook is a story, even flash – or maybe especially flash – has a definite beginning, middle and end.
Not so popular is the opinion not only can flash be traditional, but it can also be a snapshot of an emotion, situation, or transition. It doesn’t have to have a beginning, middle and end to stand on its own. It doesn’t have to answer all the questions, tie everything up in a neat package, and do all the thinking for the reader.
This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some readers don’t want to think, that’s why Danielle Steel is so popular. (Ouch. Okay, that was a little harsh, but the truth often is.) Some readers want to be taken by the hand and led to point A, on to point B, and so forth. I’m not one of those readers, and I can’t be one of those writers. I could, but I’d feel like a whore. That’s not what’s inside and if I faked it, to me it would negate the whole reason why I write.
I think with flash fiction it’s easier to blur the genre lines.
And what’s with genre, anyway? I realize, from marketing my own work, if you don’t know what label to apply to your pieces, the editors sure aren’t going to know what to do with them either. What a pain in the ass.
(I often spend much more time researching markets and formatting than I do actual writing. Bleh.)
What do I write, as far as genre?
I write speculative fic. I write creative non-fiction. I write memoirs, I write…well, I guess you would say “angst” pieces.
I love spec fic but I struggle with it. Mostly because I don’t trust my own instincts and that holds me back. This is a major wall I have to get through. My spec pieces are my longest works.
The angst pieces come easily to me, and I’m good at them. I like painting a picture of what is inside someone’s head, someone whom you would never suspect was having the thoughts that I portray. There’s enough truth in these pieces to make many people uncomfortable, and I like that too. These are the pieces that lend themselves to the flash format.
The creative non-fic and memoirs fall in between.
Still, I seem to be hard to place and that sucks. But I don’t want to conform my writing to the expectations of others – no, that doesn’t work for me at all.
So that begs the question – why do I write? What for?
Because I can.
That’s not a flip remark. Although I’m not going into details, trust me when I say that’s not a flip remark.
Beyond that – I write because I need to. Yes, I’m serious about it. (Would someone who wasn’t serious attempt the NaNoWriMo thing with nothing more than a pen and a stack of yellow legal pads? Really, think about it.)
I’m not prolific, (although I have a decent body of work) I’m not disciplined and I’m not fast. My punctuation, grammar and sentence structure suck. I have very little formal education, I work too many hours to devote as much time as I would like, and I’m too hard on myself. I know I think too much.
Still, I love it and I will continue to work at it until…well, just until.
Whoops, digressed again.
Talent there has to be. But there also has to be dedication and a thirst for knowledge. A thirst to improve. I think I’m talented; I know I’m thirsty. I know I’m a better writer now than I was five years ago. I know I’m improving.
The point of all this?
There ain’t none.
Heh. All this way and no wise words of wisdom from the wise-mouth.