While flipping through the Classifieds in Poets & Writers magazine recently, I skimmed over the words “Flash Fiction” in the “Call for Manuscripts” ads too many times to count; and found myself rolling my eyes as I sighed with weighted sarcasm.
As someone who has worked in the customer service industry for more than twenty years (most of them in call centers), I have had plenty of exposure to an up and coming younger generation that has lost the art of conversation (communication in general, really); and – due to our fascination with the brevity of social media – has the attention span of a gnat. (And let’s be honest, sometimes the gnats are a more focused audience.)
I couldn’t help thinking that “Flash Fiction” was simply a way of granting writers the lazy permission to call pieces that have less than 280 characters “stories.” (Damn you, Twitter!)
However, after a few moments of rather indulgent fury – and being the quintessential over-thinker – I realized that I may in fact be stereotyping based on my own limited experience. Paused in a calmer state of rational thought, I also acknowledged that I really had no idea what the term “Flash Fiction” truly meant. So I busted out the laptop, and asked the omnipotent internet for an answer.
I read several articles from different sources, but liked the article I found on reedsyblog best. In part, because it offered a downloadable word count cheat sheet that I found entertaining. (Though I laughed out loud when I read “… help create stories that are free from plot or pacing issues that can exhaust readers.” Clearly, they are not fans of Stephen King’s early novels. Which, by the way, I find fascinating.)
The first paragraph of the reedsyblog article says:
Flash fiction is a medium of brief and enclosed stories. Its average word count ranges anywhere from five to 1,500 words, but the consensus is that the maximum tops out at 2,000.
And on the cheat sheet, it specifically states ⚡Flash fiction: up to 1,500 – with a five-hundred count word gap between the 1,500 word maximum, and the 2,000 word minimum for short stories. Po – tay – toh: Pa – tah – toh, I suppose.
The article also offers a brief look at some of Ernest Hemingway’s “micro-stories”; references well-known works in “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” and “Aesop’s Fables”; and gives shout-out honorable mentions to other prolific writers.
Conclusion? Shorter works can, in fact, be art.
I am no Ernest Hemingway
The reason that I am rambling on about short fiction is because I was considering giving it a go today.
As someone who rarely writes (or speaks, for that matter) with brevity, shorter pieces present a difficult challenge for me. And lately, I’ve been in an I shall overcome type of mood.
In addition, I glanced at the 365 days of writing prompts from The Daily Post at WordPress this morning (which you can download here), and read this:
If you normally write non-fiction, post a photo. If you normally post images, write fiction. If you normally write fiction, write a poem. If you normally write poetry, draw a picture.
I normally write non-fiction (as you, Dear Reader, well know); so my first assignment for today is to post a photo.
What’s haunting about the “Opposite Day” suggestion is that I am a very visual writer. I far prefer having to write a story about an image over having to write one from a verbal and/or written prompt.
Add it all up, and you get this:
Poets & Writers Classifieds Frustration + Omnipotent Internet Inquiry + WordPress Writing Prompt + Image = Dare to Attempt a Flash Fiction Piece
Clearly, the universe is mocking me; and I (albeit, hesitantly) accept the challenge!
Stay tuned for a Flash Fiction piece based on the image above… though I can promise you, Dear Reader, that I am no Ernest Hemingway.