4 Nov 2007

Flash in the pan...?

I’ve always been undecided about where I stand on the whole flash fiction thing. I enjoy reading and writing flash - indeed, some of the best examples of my own writing are under 1000 words. But does anyone really take it seriously, meaning anyone who actually matters?

When I start to think along such lines, I need only click my way across to SmokeLong Quarterly* and read some of the finest, most resonant flash fictions published on the web, or anywhere, to feel reassured that flash fiction - reading it, writing it - is most certainly not a waste of time. But—

Here I am, sitting with a copy of The Best American Short Stories 2007 (Stephen King, Editor) on my desk in front of me, and from a glance down the Contents page I can tell you there isn’t one flash fiction to be found. Not one. Unless I’ve missed something, the shortest story is ten pages or roughly three to four thousand words long. And I know if I go to my bookshelves and select any short story anthology at random, I’ll be hard pressed to find more than one or two flashes in each collection. Why is that? And will we ever see the day when a flash makes it into Best American Short Stories (or might they create a new series - Best American Flash Fictions? I can’t see it, I just can’t) or wins the Stoker, or the World Fantasy Award, or the Hugo, etc? All I can say is it will have to be one helluva piece of writing…

Meanwhile, I will continue to read and write the occasional flash. I believe it has a place and purpose. For me, it’s usually after I’ve written a longish short, in much the same way I suppose as some novelists pen a short story or two upon completion of their latest novel. Reading that back, it sounds disrespectful, as though they are merely filler, but that’s not what I mean. They can be a welcome and refreshing change of pace, style, and, of course, length, as well as a difficult but rewarding challenge in their own right.

In the end, I suppose, we have to follow our own paths, awards and questions of what is accepted (or not) be damned…

* or if horror tales are your thing, pick up a copy of Michael Arnzen’s 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories.


Rob said...

I find writing flash fiction gets me going. It breaks the ice. It's not too daunting to think of writing something really short.

Often, once I've started, the story takes over, characters are discovered and the editing often brings a twist or added meaning.

What was going to be a flash fiction can eaily grow to be a short story and, unless it's put to bed quickly, threatens with all it's might to become a novellla.

All best


tqr said...

Sorry. I know this has nothing to do with flash, but I didn't know how else to contact you. Here's my initial gmail, which was bounced back to me immediately due to my having an addy for your that had long been abandoned.

Dear Mr. Dines,

Could I use "Sunrise in Coat City" for a 'best of' anthology of TQR's past 3 years? If the book does the unthinkable, and actually makes a profit, I'm giving all the contributing author's 3 percent. What do you say?

Sincerely, TQR

M.E Ellis said...

I like reading flash. Sometimes my mind prefers very short works. Something satisfying about them.