Elements of Flash Ficton Writing and an E-Course
At AWP, I attended a panel exploring the “trend” in flash fiction (or flash form writing – including lyric essay, flash nonfiction, prose poetry, etc.). The authors that presented agreed unanimously on one thing: they don’t care what a publisher calls their work—flash fiction, one page fiction, short short fiction, etc.—rather, they write it for the outlet it provides. Furthermore, they concurred: this form has been around longer than we think; what’s new is the attention flash form writing is getting, and the enthusiasm that new writers have for it.
Think of flash form writing as haiku, something that starts us thinking–something that says as much (if not more) off the page, than on the page. This form uses exposition to tell a larger story in a smaller space. Characterization happens by way of compression of both poetic and psychological detail. The struggle is often largely off the page and the writing presents a single moment, but the reader imagines an entire life. In this way, flash form writing carries more collaboration between the reader and the author than any other form.
Flash form writing is marked by brevity, intensity, abrupt beginnings and endings, surprises, sleek and efficient language, and carry more weight in mood, tone, and imagery. There is always more implied than stated. These pieces “hang in the air of mind.” Within the form are all kinds of opportunities for structural play: inscription on a headstone, encyclopedia entry, personal ad, character sketch, billboard ad, monologue, etc. Still, no matter what, “the language has to rise up toward beauty and into song,” Steve Almond said that–of course; amazing. Almond also shared that music was his first inspiration for writing short, as the music and content of the lyrics can work together to build narrative, much in the same way that prose poetry or flashes do. He cited Tom Waits as one of his all time influences in this regard.
And of course, the longer a piece of writing goes on, the more important plot becomes. In answer to the question, “Why stop?”, authors on the panel said that it has to do with authorial intent. The intent of flash form writing comes from an emotional place, a sort of impulse that must be listened to at that moment. The pieces read like bursts of energy and that is because even in their most polished forms, they still remain very close to their source of inspiration.
As a winner of 6 flash fiction contests, and author of Flashes of War, I decided I had something to say about flash form writing, too! I offer two courses in this kind of writing. The first Flash in a Flash is a 5 day e-course in FUN! You get lessons, texts, prompts and email access to me, to help you dive into a new way to write. Most importantly–this course is for all writers whether you’re published or at the skill-building stage, I welcome the curious and experimental writer to try a new medium.
My second course, Into the Flash only runs in April and is a live, 5-week, online course. The flash form will serve as a training ground for slipping into the skins of your characters, mastering scene, celebrating compression, and uplifting metaphor, all with an underlying foundation of nurturing the imagination. Registration opens February 1st – Email me to get on the early bird list.