Monday, December 17, 2007

Defining Flash Fiction: Mission Impossible

Many of the pieces I find in the slush pile are rejected because they fail to stand-alone as flash fiction. And even though I work with an editorial team that offers brief rejection comments, I suspect many authors still don't grasp why their story was rejected.

Here is one of the rejection notes I wrote last week . . . although the first person narrative structure displays a keen sense of observation, the story is anecdotal and lacks dramatic tension.

What I really wanted to write was . . . this isn't flash fiction.

So what is?

Well, it isn't as easy as saying what is and what isn't flash fiction and for good reason . . . as stated in Pamelyn Castco's article:

Flashes On The Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction:

. . . defining or stating exactly what flash fiction is would be comparable to defining or stating exactly what a poem or novel is. It just cannot be done to anyone's satisfaction.

For my taste/satisfaction, pieces that read as if they have been extracted from a larger work, or stories that have a great deal of static, prologue-style exposition and or an anecdotal, journal/memoir tone, fail to make the cut unless they can effectively convey a complete story in a nutshell--with a beginning, middle and end.

That is not to say many of the well-written, memoir-like pieces I have rejected are not publishable. Indeed they are, but only if submitted to the right markets.

I too, accept that fact that I will never be able to define what flash fiction is to everyone's satisfaction. However, I am more than willing to direct writers to markets that are a good match for their well-written flash memoir pieces.

I welcome any flash memoir market leads, and I will be publishing them here early next year.

Coming soon . . .
Big news about my editorial promotion :-)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mining the Flash Fiction Slush Pile

Each and every time I mine the slush pile, I am eager to discover a compelling piece of flash fiction.

Unfortunately--most of the time I come up empty handed. And as someone who both edits and writes flash fiction, I do genuinely understand the challenges associated with writing a compelling flash fiction story.

But the problem with most of the submissions I receive is that they aren't even meeting a quarter of what I consider to be the core criteria for creating compelling flash fiction.

Compelling flash fiction . . .

conveys a complete story—with a beginning, middle and end

requires a setting, situation/conflict and theme

contains (typically) no more than two characters, three at most

begins in the middle of the action and moves swiftly and efficiently to the end

encompasses a verbal, physical or mental conflict, difference of opinion or tension

contains a resolution and/or change in the protagonist, the antagonist or the reader’s mind

provides an ending with a strong narrative insight or opinion

enlightens, humors, saddens and/or ruminates and lingers in the reader’s mind

assembles a story in which every word is essential

intensifies verbal tone and emotion with tight active sentences, concrete nouns and strong verbs
avoids unessential modifiers and details that are not relevant to the story

avoids rambling exposition, redundancies and cliché themes

avoids the structure of a slice-of-life depiction, literary sketch, chattering essay or poem

may contain a dynamic twist ending

may embrace an experimental writing style that effectively pushes the boundaries of the reader’s imagination and expectations

The more elements of my core criteria that a flash fiction submission meets, the greater chance I will select it for publication and or an award--when I am asked to judge.

Back to the slush pile.

Coming soon . . .

I'll share some of my rejection notes

Choosing dynamic themes