Today I took the plunge into Flash Fiction, the new genre of stories so short they appeal to people with short attention spans. They also appeal to writers who, like me recently, have only a slice of life or little anecdote to write about.
Flash fiction, which offers many online publishing opportunities, is usually defined as anything between 500-1,000 words. Some people and journals specialize in 100-word stories. So far, I have been unable to think of anything worth saying in such minimalist terms as that, except in a non-fiction medium such as this blog.
Fiction for me usually involves not only a governing idea or insight but the characters, dialogue and detail to express this idea, experience, or insight. So the appeal of doing anything as constrained as under 1,000 words has been, until now, minimal.
Yet there is always something about the challenge of a contest or word limit to spur a bit of creativity--like the poet who wants to try his or her hand at the sonnet or any other fixed form.
And so I expanded a bit of chit-chat about a couple who refused to turn up the heat during a cold winter because of their two dogs, never mind the comfort or health of the people involved. When I heard about this from a friend, I was, like her, outraged at the selfishness of the couple involved.
But when I turned it into a little story, I found myself taking a humorous bent. I also found myself using many short sentences, limiting my dialogue and description, and needing only 500 words--for the first draft. Then, with each revision stretching over 8-10 hours, I ended up with 882 words. It took discipline as well as time to limit the focus and the length to meet the flash fiction rubric.
I sent the result, "The Way It Is," to a journal that seemed promising. If it's published, I will be pleased. If not, I am glad I took up the challenge of trying something new and proving to myself that I can now write not only a novel (soon to be published), two short stories (published) but a piece of flash fiction, which, like all writing, takes much more time than its length might indicate to the reader.
I doubt if I will become a master of flash fiction, but there are times when small is beautiful, when a tiny episode of a life becomes worth sharing, when the broader range of longer fiction won't do.