“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
(Blaise Pascal translation; William Highsmith, “Flash Fiction FAQs,” Writer’s Digest)
Flash fiction pieces are short compact stories of fewer than 1500 words. My experience is with those that land between 500-750 words. They are an excellent means of sharpening your skills, no matter your experience level.
Claire Guyton, a writer I greatly admire, first inspired me to explore flash fiction as a writing practice. As illustrated in the above quote, writing such fiction takes time and great care. It requires carefully selected details and precisely chosen words. Imagery and dialogue (if any) must carry layers of meaning. No word must be wasted. Only that which serves the story must remain. In the words of William Highsmith, flash fiction requires the “verbal efficiency of a poet.”
I’ve been writing short stories for years because they necessitate strict economy and the willingness to regularly “kill your darlings.” Until my introduction to Claire, however, I hadn’t considered the challenge of the short short. Then, as I launched into writing my first novel to explore a more expansive form, I was asked to contribute 500-700 word bi-weekly pieces by a small daily paper.
Recently, a prompt was offered by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance ( http://mainewriters.org ) inviting members to enter a contest. We were to write a piece of not more than 500 words beginning with a provided sentence. It was great fun and provided another opportunity for practice. Mine did not win, but that mattered little. Contests present useful deadlines!
I’ve since had a 600-word piece accepted for publication in Flash Fiction Magazine! As so many stories do, it came out of an actual experience tempered by hindsight, self-reflection and a bit of fantasy. I’ll post the link when it appears in October. Meanwhile, I highly recommend Claire Guyton’s latest. It is brilliantly executed. https://atticusreview.org/gun-metal-days/
Until I post again, I encourage you to explore the offerings of online sites specializing in flash/micro/sudden fiction and to consider adopting a daily or weekly practice. It’s a great way to exercise those writing muscles in short but powerful bursts. It’s good for the brain, for getting to know your inner editor, and for letting your inner poet come out to play.
Let me know what you think. Posting comments here is easy and they will quickly be available for viewing.
Now, seat to the seat!