A huge welcome to my Guest Blogger for the week, the wonderful Jason Sullivan, talking about the challenges and advantages of writing flash fiction. “I think we will be seeing much more flash fiction in the years to come”, he offers. Perhaps you disagree!
My first flash fiction piece was actually a short story that I made even shorter. It was a “short” short story at a little under two thousand words, but I still had some cutting to do. When I pared it down under one thousand words, I was worried I would not have enough story. What I found, however, was that I very much enjoyed the sharpened focus of the flash. I posted the story and received a lot of helpful feedback from other Friday Flash participants, so from then on I was hooked on flash fiction.
I have always enjoyed reading short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Conrad Aiken, Franz Kafka and many others. When I started to write it was often in the form of a page or two of fiction, or non-fiction, usually for a homework assignment. Maybe these were my very first flash fictions—of course, I did not know it at the time! As I got older, I dabbled a bit in short stories, partially because I liked the form and perhaps because I figured I could never get all the way through writing a novel. Well, now I have written a novel, three to be exact, although one is yet to come out—look for it sometime this summer!
After I wrote my first flash, it was around Halloween and everyone was writing a flash with a spooky Halloween theme. I thought why not give that a try. This is one of the nice things about flash fiction; almost anything can act as an inspiration for a story. Holidays and seasons are often a good source for ideas. Well, my Halloween flash, about a writer with spider problems, went very well. I plotted it like a mini-short story. The first and last paragraphs needed to be tight and focused. Of course, the first and last sentences of a flash fiction are perhaps the most important of all. They are like the opening and closing punch.
I also realized that flashes bring a clarifying perspective to dialogue. Perhaps one or two exchanges are all you get. This is a challenge, but I never shrink from a literary challenge (LOL), and again there is the opportunity to hit home with a quote or two that not only lets readers hear the character, but also tells them something about him or her. Much of the world building and descriptive content is similar. There are no words to waste. One must get right to the point. Of course, this is the same for pacing and structure, not a lot of verbose eddies in which to linger.
I went on to write quite a few more flash fiction stories, I actually put together an eBook with ten of my favorites. It is entitled, Foresight and Other Rescue Plans. Another wonderful aspect for writers is the opportunity flash fiction provides for experimentation with different genres. A writer can try new things without pouring a lot of time and energy into a novel only to discover, after much effort, that it is not going to work.
Perhaps the best part of flash fiction, however, is what it provides for the reader. Often people are very busy online and do not have time to read a full-length short story. Flash fiction allows readers to sample many different authors. This, I think, certainly gets readers interested in a writer’s longer works. For writers, too, flash fiction is good for their novels because it teaches the importance of thoughtful word selection, well-chosen actions, character development within the dynamics of the story, and world building as a process. It is true that in a novel, authors have the luxury of building scene upon scene and chapter upon chapter into a wonderful universe for the reader to enjoy. Even in the middle of great tomes, however, readers have little patience for sloppiness, poor focus or haphazard wandering. In this respect, flash fiction is an excellent practice tool for removing redundancy and honing the art of writing prose.
I hope you have enjoyed some of my thoughts on writing flash fiction. Although short in length, it is a large topic. I think we will be seeing much more flash fiction in the years to come. Please leave your thoughts on the medium or share one of your experiences with writing flash in the comments below.
Thank you, Amelia, for this opportunity to guest blog at your wonderful website. I want to encourage everyone to read Mungai and the Goa Constrictor. I read it and totally loved it! It is a superb tale filled with memorable characters. It is a great read and contains a very important message for the times in which we live.
My blog: http://differentoutcomes.wordpress.com/
My flash fiction collection: http://www.amazon.com/Foresight-Other-Rescue-Plans-ebook/dp/B007BPA228/
My Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Sullivan/e/B00488V1XK/
A recent flash fiction of mine on the #amwriting website: http://amwriting.org/archives/11539
Friday Flash collector: http://fridayflash.org/press/the-collector/
Jason Sullivan lives in Lawrence, KS. In graduate school he studied religion and philosophy with a focus on epistemology. For many years he lived in Maryland in a circa 1850s farmhouse that he helped to renovate.