My mother held that the secret to a good pie was in the shortening. She would be happy to learn the same principle might be applied to fiction.
I’ll admit it: I’m a long-form gal.
There’s nothing I love better than curling up in bed on a Friday evening and losing myself in a novel. Delicious characters, intriguing action, and hundreds of pages stretching before me. Even better, I love waking up Saturday morning with nowhere to go and nothing to do but jump back into my book where I left off the night before.
There’s nothing my teenage son loves better than curling up in bed on a Friday evening with his iPod and reading the latest AMA (“ask me anything”) on Reddit.
Now, we could all sit around boo-hooing about the short little attention spans of today’s youth. That’s what previous generations do; I’m sure my parents lamented the fact that my generation was not taught Latin.
Or we could all embrace something completely different: fiction that fits on your smart phone screen. That’s exactly what Peg Pursell, guest speaker at last weekend’s California Writer’s Club meeting, urged the room of (mostly older generation) writers to do.
She came to talk about flash fiction.
Of course, I’d heard of flash fiction—also called short-short fiction, sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction—but I had dismissed it without due consideration. It mostly appeared online; it couldn’t be serious literature.
Thanks to Ms. Pursell, not only have I had an attitude adjustment about very short fiction, I’m downright excited about it. Here’s why:
1) My novel, since I got feedback on the first draft, has been, shall we say, hibernating. (That’s a story for another blog post.) But like an injured runner, I felt I would crawl out of my skin if I didn’t do something. So I wrote a short story. And I was reminded of the great satisfaction that can arise from writing a first draft in a week, spending two weeks editing it, and having it be close to done.
One great thing about flash fiction is that you can finish writing it.
2) I love writing poetry because its limited length forces absolute efficiency. Writing rhymed or formed poetry (sonnets, sestinas, villanelles) forces further efficiency. Very short fiction does the same thing. In fact, Ms. Pursell encouraged writers of flash fiction to challenge themselves with word count limitations, or even with form limitations such as writing a 200-word story using only one-syllable words.
Prose is more accessible to many readers than poetry. Flash fiction offers authors the same challenge inherent in writing poetry, minus the lack of audience.
3) I can apply the principles of flash fiction to my novel. Perhaps this has been obvious to the rest of the world, but it seemed like a revelation to me: Instead of the horrific challenge of editing 200 pages of my novel, I can edit one page. Then the next. And the next.
Given all this, I’ve decided to attempt some flash fiction. Maybe if I write a story that fits on an iPod screen, people born after 1990 might actually read it.
If any other long-formers want to join me, here are a few sites to get you started.
- Flash Fiction Online links to flash fiction sites
- David Gaffney talks about how to write flash fiction
- Award winning short short short fiction from Bruce Holland Rogers
- The difference between “flash” and “micro” explained
- Online flash fiction – Rob Hopcott’s micro fiction blog
- Everyday fiction – “Short fiction in your inbox–daily!”
What’s your form? Long? Short? Micro? Have you experimented lately? I’d love to know.