What is flash fiction?

What exactly is flash fiction?  I know the definition:  "a story under 1000 words."  But that explains nothing.  How does it differ from the short story?  Is it fair to have similar standards for short stories and flash fiction?  Should I be upset when I know nothing about the characters in a flash fiction story?  Or is that part of the experience?

Well, I can't believe that the reader should feel nothing about the characters in flash fiction.  I do believe that is the challenge the author has to face.  Earnest Hemingway's immortal six-word flash comes to mind:  "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."  I mean, wow.  Powerful stuff.  If only I could sell something like that for 99 cents.

Yes, I do believe I have too many questions about flash fiction and not enough answers.  When this happens, I have a tendency to become experimental.  So just a heads up, folks, I may occasionally be posting a flash fiction story on this blog.  It's the only way to figure out what they're all about.  Feel free to rip any of them to shreds!

Comments

  1. Some people seem to focus on the twist or the Big Reveal in flash fiction. I like to go the other way and push as much character into the story as I can. Strip away the setting and the props to a minimum and focus on the character or characters as they make one decision or realize something important (which is almost like a Big Reveal, but it's not). Short stories, distilled one more time. =)

    -David

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  2. That's very interesting. Like a character sketch or something.

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  3. Hi Alain,

    This is, in it's entirety, a story by Richard Brautigan. I thought you might like it:

    The Scarlatti Tilt

    "It's very hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin." That's what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver.

    (from Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970)

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  4. LOL! I love it.

    It's like in the Disney Peter Pan: "Captain! Shooting a man in the middle of his cadenza? It ain't good form, you know."

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  5. James:
    I LOVED that story! Thank you so much for sharing. I just read it out loud to my daughter and we shared a hearty laugh.

    I'm frankly too long-winded (or undisciplined) to write anything resembling flash fiction, so I'm afraid I don't really have anything to add to this discussion.

    I will say though, that I find David's comments on stripping away the scenery very interesting.

    Shana Hammaker
    Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

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  6. Hi Alain and Shana,

    Glad you liked it!
    I also don't particularly write any flash fiction, many just sprawling shorts. Shana yours look interesting, I'll check them out.

    I've mounted another small defence of short stories on an interview I did - http://freebookreviews.blogspot.com/2011/03/author-interview-james-everington.html

    Cheers
    James

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