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Old 04-18-2016, 12:50 PM   #1
Dr. Drib
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The Art of Writing Flash Fiction

I'm currently working on a collection of Flash Fiction pieces, and thought it would be an interesting idea for those of us who love this genre to engage in some enlightened discussion on all aspects regarding working within this genre.

To start off the discussion (but feel free to wander all over the place), what do you see is involved in writing a flash fiction 'story'?

Are there certain components that you feel a short piece MUST have? Or not?
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:59 PM   #2
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One of my favorite topics of course.

I've been focusing almost exclusively in the flash/micro fiction area for the last year+

Flash has to 'cut to the core' -- particularly the shorter the story (as in microfiction/drabbles(100 words - which I'm enthralled with at the moment).

Most or much flash seems to rely on a significant twist at the end that causes the reader to rethink, reexamine and likely re-read the story almost immediately.

Now certainly not all flash does that, but I think most of the best flash does.

It can also rely on a completely different perspective that is created and maintained throughout the story. One of my favorites in this respect is The Stones by Richard Shelton.

Word choice is extremely important in flash, consistent interesting narration is important as well.

....
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Old 04-18-2016, 01:10 PM   #3
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I'll check out the Shelton's piece.

There were two books that initially got me started on Flash Fiction, quite a number of years ago:

1) "Flash Fiction," edited by James Thomas

2) "Wearing Dad's Head," by Barry Yourgrau

And two main authors, whom I devoured:

3) Clark Ashton Smith

4) Lord Dunsany

I recently discovered the very few but wonderful prose poems by Donald Wandrei, located in this collection of mostly short stories. The prose poems are at the end of the book:

"Don't Dream"
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Old 04-18-2016, 01:25 PM   #4
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Yes, Flash Fiction by Thomas is excellent!

There are a number of follow-ons as well but it's still a classic.

"Flash Fiction Forward" by Thomas/Shapard

"Sudden Flash Youth" by Perkins/Hazuka/Budman

There are also a few anthologies that include slightly longer pieces (but not to the length of typical short stories) like:

"Sudden Fiction"
"Sudden Fiction (Continued)"
"New Sudden Fiction"

There is also a new annual focused on Flash - "The Best Small Fictions 2015"
there will be a 2016 edition soon edited by Stuart Dybek I loved the first one last year and am looking forward to the next one. I hope it continues!
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Old 04-18-2016, 02:53 PM   #5
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I have all three of the "Sudden Fictions," and a few other titles, as well.

A great series.
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Old 04-18-2016, 03:19 PM   #6
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I have all three of the "Sudden Fictions," and a few other titles, as well.

A great series.
Good Man!
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Old 04-18-2016, 04:48 PM   #7
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Here's a great freebie from Amzon:

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Go-Ver...=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

No story over a 1,000 words.
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Old 04-18-2016, 06:01 PM   #8
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I'm quite interested in what might be called flash fiction that wasn't called that when it was written. A good example is Lu Xun's wonderful book 'Wild Grass'. These pieces were called 'prose poems' at the time. Yusunari Kawabata also did a book called 'Palm of the Hand Stories' that for a long time was my model of the very short short story. And of course Richard Brautigan in 'Revenge of the Lawn' and 'The Tokyo-Montana Express'.

I think much recent flash fiction becomes a little formulaic with the twist-in-the-tail, which to me resembles the punchline of a joke and makes the story lose all potential to a cheap capping line. A twist has to be very good to earn its keep, and most just aren't.

I wonder if flash fiction is defined in terms of more than length. This is why I look for examples before the term was invented, before it had a chance to take on 'genre' characteristics.
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Old 04-18-2016, 06:12 PM   #9
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Bookman156, in reality there is much overlap and I've seen numerous pieces published in different venues in different categories - Poetry, Flash, Prose Poetry, Microfiction, Drabbles, etc. Which is why I titled my book Prosthetic Amalgams and noted this overlap in the preface.

I first noticed this with a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa called The Deck I ran across it published as Flash Nonfiction, Poetry and Prose Poetry.

Several others as well. There is a fine line between prose poetry and flash usually distinguished by the use of poetic devices, but as often as not simply up to the author.

I'd suggest you take a look at one of my favorite prose poets - David Shumate
also Stuart Dybek, Lydia Davis, Nin Andrews, James Tate and Russell Edson.

Enjoy!
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Old 04-18-2016, 06:23 PM   #10
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@ kennyc

Thanks for the recommendations. It's interesting that prose poetry is as hard to define as flash fiction. I find a lot of prose poems are far too long for my taste and are better described as flash fiction. This doesn't apply to my favourite prose poet, Gary Young, who I think gets it just right.

http://www.gary-young.net/
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Old 04-18-2016, 06:26 PM   #11
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Yep, I enjoy Gary Young's work. I have a number of his books.
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Old 04-18-2016, 08:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
Here's a great freebie from Amzon:

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Go-Ver...=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

No story over a 1,000 words.
Don,
That freebie cost me a dollar. I remember when all those authors put it together. I beta-read many of the stories.
The dollar was because I bet a friend it would never get published.
It is free due to royalties.
So I can say there are some fabulous stories in that book.

Oh and if you guys need a beta-reader for your flash fiction just yell at me.
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Old 04-18-2016, 08:10 PM   #13
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Ha! It's a great marketing piece!
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Old 04-19-2016, 09:31 AM   #14
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I just wanted to add that I see flash fiction, and particularly microfiction and prose poetry as highly distilled fiction that has a tremendous punch and impact in a very small container. Like whiskey vs beer.
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Old 04-20-2016, 01:39 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
Here's a great freebie from Amzon:

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Go-Ver...=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

No story over a 1,000 words.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinisajoy View Post
Don,
That freebie cost me a dollar. I remember when all those authors put it together. I beta-read many of the stories.
The dollar was because I bet a friend it would never get published.
It is free due to royalties.
So I can say there are some fabulous stories in that book.

Oh and if you guys need a beta-reader for your flash fiction just yell at me.
Yep, I got it, too.



I am, by nature, drawn to shorter stories. That gets additional reinforcement these days -- I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms (doctors offices with my elderly parents, repair shops with my elderly minivan, etc.).

Whether I'm writing Flash Fiction or reading it, I look for a short episode in someone's -- or something's -- life. There is, of course, not enough room for complete character development, so something else has to be the draw.

A "Twilight Zone" twist at the end is a good way to take advantage of the nature of Flash Fiction. You have to make a superficial sketch of a person and/or an event, the reader has to fill in the details, and if you've lead (or mislead) the reader properly, you can sneak in something unexpected, but within the context of the story.
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