Hello Reading Friends!
It’s time for a quick personal update, sharing some fantastic flash fiction news. As a newbie to flash fiction, I was delighted to be longlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards and then shortlisted in the Flash 500 competition.
And it really is all about flash fiction this month, as I am currently studying, and writing loads of fresh pieces, with the help of Susan Haigh and her brilliant online Flash Fiction workshop, via Dundee University’s Lifelong Learning programme.
However, a question I’ve been asked over the past few weeks is ‘What is flash fiction?’
WHAT IS FLASH FICTION?
There are several terms used to describe flash fiction – micro fiction, prose poetry and drabbles – are just a few.
But flash fiction is generally accepted as a piece of work that is less than 1000 words in length. In practice though, competitions usually specify entries of either 500, 300 or 250 words. Sounds easy, right? How hard can be it be to knock out a couple of paragraphs?
Well, I believe it’s much harder than most folks imagine. Remember, a writer must do everything within that narrow word count that a novelist performs with around 90,000 words, including –
World building – showing the reader where they are in terms of location, time period, weather etc.
An inciting incident – something must happen that forces change upon the protagonist (main character) near the beginning of the piece that jolts the reader, and makes them want to continue on.
Character development – the best way of ensuring readers continue to read is to create characters they find interesting/care about, even in a piece with only 100 words.
Selecting a great title – with so few words to play with, the title the writer chooses may be the phrase that catches the judge’s eye.
WHY DO I LOVE IT?
For me, it’s more than writing. It’s a mix of writing and a puzzle, as the writer must find the exact words to fit (no room for waffle).
Also, as a lover of beautiful language (remember my appreciation of Gothic fiction, which is brilliant at evoking the senses) it allows me to play with words. This doesn’t mean swallowing the dictionary and using lengthy, little known terms to impress. Rather, it’s being specific with word choice – Think huff, rather than breathe. The snow dusted, rather than the snow fell.
That said, flash fiction is a form that is also happy when a writer experiments. Many pieces will follow a traditional story structure with a definite beginning, middle and end; the protagonist ventures on an emotional (and sometimes physical) journey. Some will look more like lists, or prose poems, but, however they are structured, they should move the reader in some way by being funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, poignant… the list goes on.
One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that there is always room to learn, and this week I’m looking forward to discovering more about Novellas in Flash. Yes – that’s right. A novella (around 50,000 words) written in pieces of flash fiction. I’m a long way from even contemplating such a feat, but it’s important to discover and grow.
If you would like to read more flash fiction, my piece THE PROMISE OF SNOW will published in a Bath Flash Fiction anthology, due for release in December.
But for now, stay safe and happy reading!