Reflection: Flash Fiction

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about flash fiction – basically really short stories with the emphasis on short.  Flash fiction takes the shortness to the extreme, and has grown in popularity lately with the popularity of Twitter (and it’s character limit).

In fact, I’ve seen a number of recent Twitter contests or challenges about writing flash fiction, and there’s even something called Flash Fiction Friday (which was part of what influenced me to schedule my stories for Fridays, even though I don’t consider my stories Flash Fiction).

The most well-known example is “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” – a full story in just six words, by Ernest Hemingway.

But honestly, when I first heard that story, I didn’t understand.  I thought, so somebody’s selling baby shoes, how is that a story.  It took me some time to fit the pieces together and realize exactly how much is said with those six words.  There is indeed a full story there.  Though light on the details, this is an excellent lesson about how much can be said with so few words.

Of course, with this extreme brevity, there’s no room for detail, which means all the subtext is not so plainly visible, and basic details that would be crucial in normal fiction (main characters, setting, plot) are implied rather than outright stated.  This is probably why I didn’t understand it at first.

It’s an interesting form of writing, definitely different from the short stories, novels, and sometimes poetry, I write, but it’s definitely closely connected.  I can imagine it would make a good exercise for learning how to write more meaningful sentences, or shorten longer, dull walls of text.

Personally, though, it’s not really my thing.  While I tried a few flash fiction contests or challenges, I generally didn’t come up with anything particularly special, and preferred to leave it be.  It just doesn’t fit my writing style so well – I like to go right out and say what I’m trying to say, rather than subtly imply it in a more artistic, creative way, that could obscure the meaning.  Not everybody’s going to look at, or understand, the subtext.

So, what do you think of flash fiction?  Ever written any?  Please share your thoughts!  White Rakogis is signing off!

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