Flash

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A newer format, publishers and the writing community cannot determine what “Flash Fiction” is.  All agree, more or less, that a Flash Fiction piece is a complete story cleverly compressed into a small package. ‘Package’ may run to 500 words, or 1,000 – the more commonly accepted limits.  There are challenging forms allowing no more than 100, 15, or fewer words.  Some push the ceiling out to 2,000 or even 3,000 words, perilously close to short-story length. 

Crafting good Flash Fiction is difficult for obvious reasons.  Completing a piece of flash gives a different feeling of accomplishment.  Not better.  Different. It takes real crust to beat the snot out of a nifty plot line to wrap it up neatly within the limit du jour, while developing characters satisfactorily.

I’ve a sneaky suspicion the form has become popular for the limited attention spans of modern readers, looking to shave minutes off their reading schedules, leaving more time to spend at the local coffee bar.  Put a piece with more than 5,000 words in front of many trend-following consumers, their willingness to continue will vaporize, no matter how compelling the ‘dark and stormy night’ opening.

Dostoevsky and Maugham examples of the art aside, Flash Fiction has literary value and likely will grow in popularity.  Well-executed, flash is satisfying, thought-provoking, and manageable between ordering your double-double-choco-fat-free and picking it up at the counter’s end.

SPW 6.22.2020

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