By Sudha Balagopal
I wrote big, then went small. I discovered the art of writing small fiction or flash fiction after having two short story collections and a novel published. My first flash piece was published in 2016, when the form cast the initial spell on me, fascinating me with its versatility, immediacy and energy. Since then, I've written flash exclusively, with dozens of stories appearing in journals around the world. When I asked myself why I'm attached to the form, I came up with the following ten reasons.
I love writing flash because the stories are under 1000 words and, to me, small is beautiful. This form of fiction has also been called the short-short, sudden fiction, the postcard, and the miniature.
I love writing flash because of the intensity in the brevity. The stories might be bite-sized but they contain an intensity and a succulence that satisfies the reader.
I love writing flash because the style is challenging. The stories might be short, with few characters, but the size of a piece of flash does not make the writing easier. It takes practice and skill to condense, to weed, to excise, all without taking away the crucial elements to create a complete story arc.
Flash fiction is about compression, efficiently and effectively delivered.
I love flash fiction because the story starts in the middle of the action with no lengthy introductions. With this form, I arrive late to the party and exit early, but not without making a strong splash.
I love writing flash because the style lends itself to experimentation. I've seen flash written as a crossword puzzle and flash that masquerades as a review. I've also seen flash pieces that are entirely without dialog, and many that are one-sentence paragraphs.
The hermit-crab flash borrows a specific form to tell a story. One of my works in Matchbook Literary, Life Times Nine, uses the form of the times-table. In Lunate Fiction, I used anaphora, a repeated phrase at the beginning of each sentence, in Learning to Row.
I love writing flash because of the impact of the story on the reader. A good piece of flash leaves the reader thinking about the story long after the story has been read. The punch and the resonance that a piece of flash packs is what makes the form so captivating.
I love writing flash fiction because of the story that is not told. Flash fiction believes in an intelligent reader who can fill in the blank spaces, one who can make the connections within the story, between and under the lines.
I love writing flash because the stories are easy to consume. In these fast-paced times, readers can read flash on their devices, while they're on the move, while they're waiting somewhere, or in the traditional manner. Well-respected journals like The New Yorker have published flash fiction.
I love writing flash because as Kathy Fish, teacher and flash fictioneer extraordinaire, says: "Flash fiction, I believe, is its own unique literary form, not merely a short story in miniature, and we should teach it as such."
Fish's article in full: Flash Fiction As It's Own Unique Form
I love writing flash because it is the arc of a captured moment, when the small becomes profound. As Nancy Stohlman has said, it is the cupcake of literature.
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Book: Going Short by Nancy Stohlman.
Examples of Flash Journals:
Have you written flash fiction? Do you have other flash fiction resources for us? Share your thoughts down in the comments! (And please welcome Sudha, our newest contributor at WITS!)
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Sudha Balagopal's recent flash fiction appears in Monkeybicycle, Matchbook, Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine and Milk Candy Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn. Her novella-in-flash, Things I Can't Tell Amma, was highly commended in the Bath Novella-in-Flash contest and is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction. Her work will appear in Best Microfiction 2021. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions and is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50. Find her on Twitter @authorsudha, or via her website at www.sudhabalagopal.com
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I love Flash! Another contest is NYC Midnight - I'm signed up for their 100 word Flash contest now.
Oh yes, I know friends who participate in that contest. Good luck!
Oh boy, I'm in trouble now! I signed up for that too!
You will do great! Enjoy!
Flash Fiction is part of a WEA course I am taking soon....looking forward to it even more now.
Wonderful! I hope you enjoy it.
My first published story was a flash. Now, when I'm writing a scene for a novel and find myself rambling on and on, I put myself in flash story mode and that usually cleans things up nicely. The intensity of writing small is a great teacher. Get in, get out.
You are right. It's wonderful how flash skills translate to larger works. Love, "Get in, get out."
Good luck with the contest, Laura! Thanks, Sudha, for the links. I loved writing my flash called Buckle Bunny for the Charmed Writer's Flash Fiction 2019 anthology. 500 words was really tough for someone whose "short" stories run around 12,000 words. But I thought was up for the challenge. After all, I'd won a bike in a 20-words or less "I Love My Daddy Because..." contest when I was 10. The struggle is real today--now I know the "rules."
Congrats on the win for "I love my Daddy because..." 🙂
Flash is difficult, yes, especially if you're used to writing long. But, as with anything else, you get better with practice. I hope you'll continue pursue some flash fiction, Barb!
Yay and congrats to both you and Jenny for making it to round 2!
I once heard Nancy Stohlman say, cut your story in half, then cut it in half again and of course, I was in disbelief. Until I tried it --- and learned how sharp a story can get.
So glad you'll delve more into flash. Enjoy!
Recently, I tried the NYC Midnight short story contest, and happy to say that both myself and Jenny (WITS hostess with the mostest) progressed to round 2!
Writing short-form fiction is both exhilarating and intense. You have to weigh each word and cut every extraneous fluff-phrase.
Thank you for the resources, as I'm wondering about flash fiction and may dive into it more. It's fun to write!
Thanks for the great post, Sudha. I love writing flash. I learned a lot going through some of your stories at critique group. Not just the power of words, but as you pointed out, the power of what's not spoken. I also enjoyed "doing the math" to make the word count--take one away here so you can add one there. A real education and a lot of fun!
Nice to "see" you here! Thank you for your comments on my post. Glad you see the power of what is not spoken. I do remember how you've helped balance my story's numbers at critique group-- Thank you!
This is great Sudha! Totally agree about the blank spaces.
Those blank spaces are so eloquent, aren't they? Thanks for reading and commenting, Meghashri!
I have written flash and I do enjoy the challenge.
Denise, that's so great to hear!
I write a fair amount of flash. Lately I've been trying to write at least one 100-word story daily, in addition to other writing. I often include a piece in my newsletters.
Virginia, Nice to meet a fellow flash writer! And a 100-word story every day? That's awesome.
Thank you for this insight! In 2020, I started writing picture books (also under 1,000 words) and I love them for many of the same reasons. Both are truly unique forms--flash, for adults, usually without pictures; picture books, written for kids, but selected and read by adults.
It's fascinating that you made the connection between flash and picture books! Yes, both are unique and challenging at the same time.