Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flash Fiction (WW? #21)

While “flash fiction” isn’t anything technically new, it’s getting a little bit more notice in my personal pocket universe thanks to a couple of people in the so-called blogosphere. The most recent tip of the hat to flash fiction comes from Jess in her Writer’s Weekly Question.

Writer's Weekly Question #21:
Have you ever written a piece of flash fiction? Do you think that flash fiction is an evolutionary step in American fiction, or is it just a "flash in the pan?" Is writing in this genre easier or more difficult? Why?

For anyone who’s read Jess’ post for this question, you already know I’ve written some “flash fiction.” My first publishing credit comes from a piece called “Unstuffed” which appears in the most recent issue of“Spinetingler Magazine.” Coming in at just under two-hundred-twenty-five words, my story about Ted E. Bear investigating the unfortunate demise of a stuffed doll named Andy was included in the magazine as an example of a genre called “Cozy Noir.” By the by, the magazine is holding a contest for the best example of “Cozy Noir.” The contest runs until September 5, 2006, so get writing!

Anyway, back to the question.

I’ve not dealt much with short fiction. Frankly, short stories scare the devil out of me. I’d rather tackle writing a book. That said, I doubt I’d have had the courage to write “Unstuffed” in this format if not for a post by the lovely H.E. Eigler of “Phantom Keyboard.” She recently posted two entries devoted to flash fiction. The first entry included links to websites where you can find tons of examples of flash fiction. The second included a flash fiction story of her own entitled “The Cowboy.”

Short short stories like “The Cowboy” and my “Unstuffed” aren’t all that new, per se. I can recall quite a few magazines listed in the almighty Writer’s Market that specifically wanted stories of this length when I last looked for places to submit my work. I remember being startled by this and wondering how anyone could write a decent story with such a minimal word count. Flash fiction does seem to be gaining a stronger interest thanks to the Internet, though. There’s something unintimidating about it as a reader, and it’s ideal for the impatient surfers of the world wide web.

Is writing flash fiction easier or harder than other genres? To do it well, I think it’s a lot harder. A bit of advice I took from a writing class in college was, “In a novel, ever paragraph counts. In a short story, every sentence counts. In a poem, it’s every word.” Flash fiction falls somewhere between a short story and a poem in what it demands of a writer. Still, “Unstuffed” just fell out of me with little or no trouble—a rare thing for me.

What’s the future of flash fiction? The one weakness is that no one’s going to get rich off of writing this stuff. Magazines just aren’t going to pay that much for a story incapable of filling an entire page. I don’t think it’s a “flash in the pan,” because we’ve really had it a long time. We’re just going through a period where it’s getting more interest. I suspect we’ll see it fall out of favor again and then make a comeback quite a few times, but perhaps the Internet will give it a stronger presence than it’s traditionally had.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I think Tribe's Flashing in th Gutters site is a great resource on short fiction. Personally, I'm with you - writing a novel isn't as frightening as writing short fiction. Short stories must be precise, you must be thrifty and accurate with your words, must keep your focus.

Much harder than people think.

H.E.Eigler said...

Hey, thanks so much for including me in your post! I really wish we could get rich writing flash....not holding my breath though :)

jamie ford said...

I love writing flash fiction. But, it's really writing for other writers isn't it? (Seriously).

There's no market for flash. Mainstream consumers of fiction don't know what it is. I think it's a wonderful developmental medium for writers, but I don't see it becoming more than what it is.

Maybe in a 10 years when there are several famous authors who got their start writing flash. Maybe then collections of their early work will find a market.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Sandra, I think you just said it better than I could.

Heather, my pleasure! I really enjoy your blog, so happy to give it a plug.

Jamie, you make a really interesting point. Flash fiction being somewhat marketless, but great for honing skills. Hadn't thought of it in that light, but having read your comment, I'd have to agree. Thanks for visiting the Lair.