The Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction

Image: inside of a dollhouse, with a woman looking in through the windowPhoto credit: art_practice on Visualhunt/ CC BY-NC-ND

Today’s post is an excerpt from the brand-new book Going Short: An Invited to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman( @nancystohlman ).

Consider flash fiction an opportunity. Let depart of your deceptions and your smart interpretation skills. Let vanish of your need to explain. Discover what you don’t need to say.

Let go of description–one perfect detail will do the trick. Let stillness be potent. Don’t rush to fill them.

Let go of extra words: make meaningful gaps.

Let go of the insist to linger.

So what’s left?

What’s left is a tightly crafted nugget of converged amber. What’s left is flash fiction.

Writers arrive at flash fiction with different strongs and weaknesses. Prose scribes, including novelists, memoirists, and short story columnists, are usually cozy with narrative but can struggle with the word constraint. Poets are often good working in small-time gaps, but they can struggle with narrative, composing vignettes or prose rhymes that may or may not be telling a story.

A good story has necessity. Something has to happen.

The flash fiction story bends with tension like a fish caught at the end of a spar. There’s movement, a sense of something unfolding–or having exactly unfolded.

Flash fiction has an virtually desperate need to tell a story before it’s too late.

The Zoom Lens

One of my favorite comings to writing a flash fiction story is what I call the zoom lens–taking an ultra close-up shot of what’s potentially a much bigger story. It’s like shrinking the focus from a wide-angle landscape to a single heyday. In flash fiction, the single heyday can be the whole world.

To begin, make a list of narratives or potential narratives you intend to write/ rewrite. Now for each of these narrations identify the actual timeline–how much chronological period does this story cover from beginning to end? A week? Three weeks? A year? An hour? Several months? One era? Ten years?

Once you’ve decided, ask yourself: what’s the most important 5 minutes?

Now write that and only that.

When you zoom, the whole story happens in one formulated. There’s no room for backstory or incidental description. Resist the insist to explain anything , no flashbacks or other pranks of exposition–just “drop” us into that little slice of story.

Five minutes later, leave.

Implicate the Reader

There are only two “rules” to flash story: it should be 1,000 words or less, and it should tell a story. But how can you tell an entire legend in such a small space–sometimes as few as 50 utterances? We do it through very purposeful implication. As columnists, we can imply all sorts of things–from action to description to backstory. For instance–if I tell you I only reddened the toilet, I’m implying and you’ll assume I really exploited the lavatory. If tell you I sat on the hall, you’ll assume I had to open the door and walk outside. If I tell you I got on an airplane, then you’ll assume I had to arrive at the airport, check my luggage, etc. A novelist doesn’t have to describe the security check or the turning of the figurehead doorway hold as long as they are obvious assumptions.

Now if I was reddening a gun down the bathroom or get the hell out of there a private airplane, I would need to explain.

Entire fixes can be showed. One writer situateds his narratives in places like airports or hotels so he doesn’t have to describe the place. “Airport” and “hotel” are familiar and already brought forward by a host of implied descriptions. But if the airport is fitted with goats or the hotel concierge has a glass eye–you better describe that.

Is the Story Too Long? Embrace Constraints

My story is just over 1,000 words–too long for burst? The rebuttal is technically yes( though I’ve occasionally recognized twinkle defined as 1,200 or even 1,500 messages ), but I’ve found that a legend coming in at 999 messages is typically written by someone who’s still trying to “make it fit.”

Writers brand-new to flash often find the constraint arbitrary and infuriating: why such a perfectionist on the word count? So what if it’s a few words over?

But I speculate the magic of flash fiction happens because of the constraint. Interesting things belly against frontiers. From sonnets to prompts–even deadlines–many novelists find they display their best work when pushing against a limitation: you are unable coat with the emblazon light-green, you must finish a movie in 48 hours, you have to write a story without exercising the character E. Beethoven wrote his most important symphony when he was deaf.

Embracing the constraint is the true gift of twinkle fiction. So, if your first struggles are intention up at 999 texts, don’t worry. The more cozy you get, the more your floors will naturally shrink. Here’s how you’ll know you’ve spanned over: you’ll never need to look at the word count again.

Flash Myth# 1: Smaller Is Easier

Let’s debunk Myth# 1.

Housed in the Chicago Institute of Art are the Thorne Miniature Rooms, insignificant replications of actual historic chambers painstakingly crafted on a proportion of one inch: one hoof. You press your face up to each of the 68 windows and gape at the amply worded world-wide inside–complete with strange lumbers, fabrics, chandeliers and intricate, hand-woven rugs. The attention to detail in each apartment would be affecting even at life immensity, but the true fascination is the fact that they are just so damn tiny!

One of the reasons beings love flash fiction is because, like the Thorne Rooms, there is something awe-inspiring about participating a perfectly worded minuscule macrocosm. When done correctly, tiny is part of the art: the Mona Lisa on a cereal of rice, a statue of Charlie Chaplin poised on an eyelash. And it often involves more talent from the writer , not the other way around. Creating something tiny takes a different level of expertise and precision.

Sometimes when people discover flash fiction they expect: oh, it’s cute, it’s small, it’s easy. But to fully appreciate flash we must assume mastery: the fib is small because the author has decided to tell it this way.

Flash Myth# 2: Readers Have Short Attention Spans

This is probably the most common flash myth. But readers aren’t enamored with show fiction because they have short attendings spans–that’s like saying the sculptor of the bonsai tree didn’t have “members attention” for a full-grown tree, or that people who eat sliders don’t have “members attention” for a quarter-pound hamburger. Maybe, only maybe, they like sliders and bonsai trees?

In the same way, books desire flashing fiction because it’s complex and breathtaking and fulfills so much in such a tiny space.

In fact, flashing story requires a more sophisticated reader. The tale requirements the book to “pay close attention”–every decision, every text takes on a new implication, if merely for the limited number of them. The reader must mount the gaps, fill in the spaces, follow the breadcrumbs, and inhabit the purposeful spaces left by the writer. Which means that flash fiction is fostering a new symbiosis between writer and books, on and off the page.

As readers, we’ve gotten used to sitting in the gathering and being entertained. But it’s nearly impossible to passively consume flash fiction. Leaving things unsaid and undigested necessitates struggle and interpretation; the book steps out of the role of voyeur and becomes an active participant in the fib. It’s this act of interpretation that maintains artistry vital–no longer just watching from a darkened audience, light fiction invites the reader up on the stage, hands them a tambourine, and tells them to keep up.

Flash Myth# 3: Bigger Is Better

“Important” literary works are large-hearted. Therefore, some people still dismisses flare story as meaningless. How could anything important be accomplished in such a small space? Flash fiction is good for barroom pots , not for serious literature.

The implication here is the more we have of something, the better it is. War and Peace is “important”: it’s long, it’s hard, it’s complex, it’s 1,200 sheets. But The Old person and the Sea is only 120 sheets and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Should we assume that Tolstoy operated 10 x harder than Hemingway or that his work is 10 x more important? The truth is they can’t certainly be compared. Flash fiction should be judged on its own terms.

It’s meant to be grasped in one sitting–it feeds move , not yearning. Longer literature is meant to be enjoyed over epoch. But flashing myth doesn’t look for sweeping vistas. Flash fiction is not the epic story. Flash fiction is that guy on the beach with the metal detector. We don’t need to know his history, we don’t need to know what he looks a lot like. Just tell us what he finds.

I’ll be honest: I had a hard time get short-lived. After more than 10 times writing fictions, my first “flash” narrations were cannibalized from various longer projections, fastened with brand-new deeds, and announced twinkle. And this kind of wielded, for a minute, but it felt like cheating( and it was ). I hadn’t really written flashing at all.

I think most scribes devote some transitional period as twinkle forgeries. Eventually you run out of excerpts or longer narratives to murderer or prose poems to pass off and are forced to do what you should be doing from the beginning–conceiving tales in flare. I knew when I eventually wrote a real flash piece: it felt different.

And formerly I started “seeing in flashing, ” the tales were all around me like 3D personas emerging from an optical illusion–finally presenting themselves.

Flash fiction has created a brand-new sort of genre freedom with only one regulation: tell us a floor in 1,000 names. I don’t care how you make love. Just make it work.

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman

So many of the charms of both writing and reading flash fiction are the literary acrobatics that happen when patches are forced to bend in such small-minded seats. Flash storeys can be circular, reform tenses or points of view, told as orations or in a encounter organize, told backwards or totally in talk. A flash floor might be one long circular breathless convict. We are telling tales that could not be told in any other form.

As a writer, that’s improbably exciting.

Note from Jane: If you experienced this announce, be sure to check out Nancy Stohlman’s brand-new work Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction.

Read more: janefriedman.com