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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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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