Monday, January 12, 2009

Flash Fiction: Not Merely a Literary Experiment

Authors of flash fiction that treat the form purely as a literary experiment are missing a powerful opportunity to develop a solid understanding of how to create dynamic and memorable stories, no matter the forms abbreviated 50 to 1,000 range of words.

True flash fiction stories are far more developed than mere literary experiments or slice-of-life vignettes—the likes of which I have seen far too many of in the submission files in my various roles as a flash fiction editor.

Well-developed flash fiction stories—or as they are also sometimes referred to as short-shorts—must also contain the same basic elements of all well-crafted storytelling: strong characters, a sense of place i.e. setting, a story problem or challenge, resolution etc.

Moreover, there is nothing experimental about creating a flash fiction story that requires authors to be mindful of every single word they use to convey their story within the limited srange of words—it is mandatory.

Last year, in my role as a flash fiction editor for an ezine, I saw far too many “literary experiments” in my submission files, far too many slice-of-life vignettes and pieces that barely rose above the status of character sketches or in some cases read like prologues or summaries of larger stories. In general, I received far too many submissions that seemed to indicate the authors did not understand the form, and missed the opportunity to create a story in which the power of well-chosen words was fully realized.

I suspect the solution to the problem of so many authors misunderstanding the challenges of writing powerful flash fiction is for editors and devoted readers of flash fiction to keep repeating what flash fiction is and isn’t, and to keep suggesting that would-be authors of powerful flash fiction continue to seek out and read powerful flash fiction.

Writing flash fiction is a demanding writing task, not a literary experiment or exercise, and the editors that publish flash fiction are actively seeking the best of the form.

Throughout this New Year, I will begin to build and post a list of these flash fiction markets, as well as offering an array of tips to help authors create well-crafted flash stories, in the hopes that authors will embrace the challenges of the form in lieu of merely experimenting with it.

1 comment:

Jane Smith said...

Just a couple of weeks ago I started a collaborative fiction blog (look at Greyling Bay in my profile) for people to send their flash fiction to, and like you, I'm surprised at the misunderstandings that people have about the form. I realise that GB is a slightly different thing, as all the submissions are related to each other in some way: but still, the number I've had to reject because they were little more than plot summaries for longer pieces has surprised me.