A Short Introduction to Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is short. The first thing people want to know, though, is “how short?” I tend to be very noncommittal about an answer. Who cares? This short piece, that has been ascribed to Hemingway, is just six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” That’s a story. It’s got a beginning, albeit one that starts before the words, a middle and an end -- all traditional markers of storytelling (also known as Freytag’s Triangle, this rising action, climax and falling action is the structural basis for most mainstream literary fiction). The brevity of the genre, though, allows writers to structure stories differently (plot according to their understanding of the world) as well as subvert traditional conceptions of character, setting and point of view, making it powerfully versatile. I like to think of the genre as short prose, rather than fiction. A sort of nebulous gray area between poetry and traditionally structured fiction. Peter O’Connor writes in the introduction to the excellent book, PP/FF: An Anthology, that genre “is easier to sell, to teach, to quantify and review, but what does it have to do with creating new art?” It is this creation, pushing the boundaries of the status quo, writing beautiful, traditional flashes, rubbing the reader’s nose in the gritty everyday, that is important here. So write. Submit. Be heard.


Hopefully this section will elicit a variety of short prose pieces with their own lives and forms. I’m looking for pieces from 6 (try it) to 500 words approximately. Now that the section has become a blog, the word constraint doesn’t need to be so stringent, but I hope to have a best of flash fiction printed once a month and at that time, longer work will have to be excluded. Send submissions to [email protected].

Coming up next: The king is dead! Long live the king! (Or a reprint of two flash fiction pieces).

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