Thursday, March 17, 2011

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!

6 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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