A piece on the noble art of writing ‘Flash Fiction’.

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Basically flash fiction is a short form of storytelling.

Trying to define it by the number of words is a futile exercise. Purists may give a figure of 100 words, but that is arbitrary at best.

For most a story of under 1,000 words can be considered flash fiction, some even stretch this number to 1,500 words.

What is generally accepted is that ‘flash’ is an extremely short medium in which the writer must tell a complete story. Fragmented tales are not tolerated.

The challenge is to tell the tale in a way that every word is absolutely essential, discard all words which can be considered superfluous, leave only the gleaming white bones of direct narrative.

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Ernest Hemingway stated this wonderfully in his (over-quoted) dictum referencing an iceberg: Only show the top 10 percent of your story, leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.

Although it is a rather worn and overworked cliché it is one that should be born in mind when writing flash fiction.

Flash fiction is not a new phenomenon created by social media or the internet, it is an ancient writing form which has existed for millennium.

Some other names for this form of writing are: Sudden, fast, quick, postcard, minute, furious, and even skinny fiction!

The French often term this as ‘nouvelles’.

In China, pocket stories, minuet longs and palm-sized writings are frequently used terms.

download (2)I have also heard flash fiction referred to as ‘smoke stories’. A reference that it only takes as long to read a flash story as it does to smoke a cigarette!

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I know that this is a very short post in comparison to most of my ‘Ramblings’, perhaps it should be called a ‘flash blog’?

Thank you for reading this, enjoy the rest of your day.

I the meantime I shall leave you with a little ‘micro fiction’ piece which was inspired by the aforementioned Mr Ernest Hemingway.

‘Colt45. Used only once. Includes 5 shells. Sale due to recent bereavement’.

© Paul White 2015

Why not mosey over to my other blog ‘Further Ramblings and read some irreverent ruminations.

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4 thoughts on “A piece on the noble art of writing ‘Flash Fiction’.

  1. Seth

    You said that flash fiction can’t consist of fragmented stories. Do short stories about the same character that would still make sense without the other count as flash fiction?

    Like

    1. Hi Seth,
      Hope this answers your question?
      “To successfully write flash fiction, avoid fragmented storytelling. Tell a complete story with the traditional format of beginning, middle and end, making every word essential, without the extras. Retain the elements of storytelling, because otherwise it will become a snippet of a moment of a larger story or an episode without a theme or story”.

      While fragmented narrative suits longer stories Flash is better read as a linear tale. In Flash fiction there is a limit on the number of words, making it harder to jump back and forth. It would have to be a very well crafted piece to pull fragmentation off in a manner which would suit the reader.

      If the piece(s) you are referring to are part of a series then I would conclude that they are ‘chapters’ in a longer work and not true flash. Although you may get it to work overall if each ‘flash’ contains an entire stand alone story, but then the purists would argue its authority.

      Homer’s “Odyssey” and James Joyce’s “Ulysses” are outstanding fragmented works.

      It is suggested that the best way to write flash fiction in one sitting with one idea for a character or plot and work from there. Ask yourself if there is a point to the story, but do not get too focused on theme. Write when you are in your own emotional moment, getting words out without worrying about word count.

      Begin at the moment of conflict when most of the action is nearly complete, avoiding any kind of introduction or back story. Make sure every conversation, action and gesture is important to the telling of the story. Focus on powerful images. And end with an emotional impact.

      Paul. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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