Now, what in the hell is FLASH FICTION?
Some might say it's a reader's quickie. Then
again, this present day Internet staple is a
story that's naked and succinct. Although, it's
more often referred to as: micro fiction, postcard
fiction and a few other names describing its
As to its length, well it can vary from as
little as fifty-five words to one thousand words.
In its most common form it's typically seven
hundred and fifty words. Why? because that amount
of words can fit on two-facing pages in most
Flash Fiction is definitely not new. In reality,
it can be traced back to Aesop's Fables, which
number beyond four hundred. All of his fables
involved animals, such as "The Boy Who Cried
Wolf," "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The
Hen and the Golden Egg," to name a few.
Flash Fiction can be described as a "short
form" of storytelling. To further explain this
meaning let's say if you can read a story while
smoking a cigarette and finish it on the last
puff, it's Flash Fiction.
Most writers refer to it as a hard, fast
and unmasked core of a long story. Yet,
it still must have a beginning, middle and an
end. The experts approach this manner of story
writing by letting the words flow and, upon
the completion of the work, editing the hell
out of it. Let's consider an example: "The agile,
fast sprinter jumped over the downed hurdle"
(nine words) or, " The sprinter leaped the downed
What has been done here is to take out the
unnecessary description, which allows the reader
to form their own mental picture of the situation
and allows a forward movement into the story.
But, keep in mind; the reader must be kept suspense-filled
up until the ending.
I favor a different approach to flash fiction
writing and that's to start a story in the middle
of a conflict or a major disaster of a sort
and hook the reader "in a flash" (a pun definitely
The genre of flash story isn't essential to
most magazine editors. Yet, today, most flash
fictions are science fiction and fantasy, which
are in demand. This is probably due to the fact
that great flash stories aren't always easily
A flash story must grab the reader and be interesting
without being presented as a personal viewpoint.
If it's a message (government, crusade, religious
point, etc.) you're trying to relate, be sure
to mask it in a good "short-short" story.
When submitting a flash story to a printed
or online magazine you should first try to find
out their article word limit. Some require between
500 or a 1000 words (nano or micro fiction),
while others especially like a Drabble or Rhyme
form (100 words exactly) or a 69er (69 words).
Then, there is what some writers consider the
paramount of verse or story writing, the 55er
(55 words). It contains 10 lines, beginning
with ten words, each line has one word fewer
and ends with only one word, totaling exactly
Interesting concept. Let's have a go at it.
Line one: Bill had waited to retire
to start his dream project.
Line two: He had been outfitting his tool shed
Line three: A yellow hot rod with lots of chrome.
Line four: It was to be a show car.
Line five: The envy of all to see.
Line six: Yes, the time was right.
Line seven: His wife Jan agreed.
Line eight: Bill was happy.
Line nine: Work began.
Line ten: Awakened!
Well, how about that?
Moving on... Please allow me to relate that
there is a difference between prose poems and
flash writing: while some flash pieces are prose
poems, many aren't. Flash writing doesn't exclude
Oh, by the way, the use of the word "FLASH"
instead of the editor's term "short short" or
"sudden" fiction is generally credited to Robert
Shapard and James Thomas. These two editors
have been working together since the 1980's
when they met during a meeting of a writer's
group. Their joining permitted them to research
and write six anthologies (a collection of literary
works) of very short, short stories. Because
of their work and research in "Flash and Sudden"
fiction, it is now considered a sub-genre or
If one has a hankering to enter this field
of writing, there are many online publications
and print magazines that accept this genre.
Here is a short list: The Green Tricycle,
The Vestal Review, Flash Fiction,
Pixel Press, The Mississippi Review,
The Rio Grande Review, The Paumanok
Review and Wildstrawberries.
If you wish to read the works of some authors
of FLASH FICTION here is a list of the popular
ones: Jason Gurley, Ron Carlson, Robert Coover,
Steve Almond, Amy Hempel, Grace Palsy and Paul
P.S. Don't confuse Flash Fiction with Vignettes,
which in theater, movie script or poetry writing,
are short impressionistic literary sketches
of a scene that focus on one moment or give
a particular insight into a character, idea