Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Few Words About Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction is more or less a derivative of the short story. Through the years many great authors have said so much with so few words. O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi comes to mind, as does the work of Poe and Maupassant. Aesop’s Fables are another fine example. Flash Fiction takes this one step further.
Consider Flash Fiction is to an author what the 100 Yard Dash is to a Marathoner; or, for the fitness crowd, Pilates for the brain. To sharpen the point even more, it’s the telling of a complete story in the least amount of words–usually 500 or less. The important thing here is you tell the whole story. Taking an excerpt from a longer story does not constitute flash fiction. Despite what others might think, that would still be considered an excerpt.
Hemingway is credited with penning the most celebrated with this 6 word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Tucked into those few words are all the elements of a good story. There’s a protagonist, conflict and a resolution. The remarkable thing about this type of fiction is the brevity of the work allows the reader to extract all that is implied, leaving them to interpret and draw their own conclusion of the author’s intent.
So, next time you have the seed of an idea and a little time to kill, put your story down on paper. When finished, start distilling it down to the least amount of words. Remember, implication is your friend, and brevity your motivation.

For example:

Call me Ishmael. I find myself alone, bobbing in the blood-stained waves, hoping the masts in the distance are that of the Rachel and not the delusions of a man half crazy with thirst and the visions of the great white whale that has brought about this end. The once turbulent waves are calm, devoid of any trace of the mysterious captain and his obsession with finding and killing the whale responsible for the loss of his leg. Gone, too, is the Pequod, an ominous looking ship festooned with the bones and teeth of the very devils its captain sought with murderous intent.
If I’m to die, so be it. All that’s left of this nightmarish voyage is the unused coffin I cling to–the coffin of Queequeg, a fellow harpooner. His repulsive appearance hastened my opinion of him as a savage, though our brief time together proved me wrong. Now, even in death, his kind spirit and selflessness will most likely save me from the tragic end I’ve witnessed to this brave crew.

It's a shame Melville didn’t have a blog.