Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Art of Flash Fiction

Crafting a flash fiction story can be a challenge, but it is well worth the effort. It goes by a variety of names, including microfiction, short short stories, and postcard fiction. Whatever the name used, the experiment is the same. Some wonderful writers have tried their hand at flash fiction, including Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, and Ray Bradbury. Could you be next?

The term "flash fiction" means different things to different people, but is most generally characterized by a word count of less than 2,000 words. The majority of flash fiction falls in the range of 250 to 1000 words, but there are notable exceptions. For example, one form of microfiction called "55 Fiction" is defined as a complete story that consists of exactly 55 words.

Creating an entire story in as little as 250 words is not an easy task. Flash fiction should include all the standard narrative elements - it needs a protagonist, a conflict, and a resolution. If you tend to be verbose, give flash a try. It forces the writer to cut out unnecessary words and get to the heart of the conflict quickly.

Flash fiction is still a relatively new genre. The oldest magazine specializing in its publication, "Vestal Review," has been published since the year 2000. The internet is a contributing factor to the growth in popularity of the style. Readers are looking for short, tightly written pieces that convey the story quickly. Shorter stories and paragraphs are easier to read on a computer screen. Critics sometimes challenge flash fiction as being written for a generation with no attention span, but I don't find this to be the case.

Writing tightly and conveying a strong message is not easy. I took a short course in flash fiction to learn the genre, and discovered that it almost seemed easier to write a novel. While it can be easy to paint the scene in so few words, the problem comes with showing a dramatic scene that actually has some sort of resolution.

Using the number of words in this article, several flash fiction pieces could have been crafted. It may seem impossibly, but that is part of the challenge. Why not give it a try?

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