Why I Write Flash Fiction
One reason I write flash fiction is for the creative refuge it supplies. Awhile back I sought refuge in a studio in Houston, Texas where I was able to gain new perspective by being in a new space. I lived with my friend, painter Howard Sherman, for four weeks and we called our collaboration THE WAREHOUSE SESSIONS. Each day we woke up to 100+ degree temperatures. Each day, he painted. And each day, for three weeks in a row, I wrote 1 flash fiction story that took place in a city, did not involve warfare, and did not portray anyone getting killed (in the real, present time of the story). Frequently, I took titles from New York Times articles as the prompt for my story and as the title for my piece (without reading the content of the article itself). I called this challenge “minor urban catastrophes” and it was an experiment I curated for myself as a way to get a break from war lit; to spark my creativity in a new, different way for a while.
I write flash fiction to make the ordinary, extraordinary.
I stuck true to my plan, and at the end of 21 days, had 17 completed flash fictions all fitting loosely together. What bound them together was not Texas (for many of the stories take place elsewhere), rather, this sense of one “minor” thing going wrong (a “catastrophe”) in an urban setting. In one story, “Seeing Marcella,” that catastrophe is when the narrator, Thomas, runs into Marcella, from the old neighborhood. Then and now, I believe that the truth is in the immediate details of our lives. I wanted to investigate that outside the bounds of war, and had a blast doing so.
A while back, the wonderful folks at Fiction Southeast accepted two flash fictions from The Warehouse Sessions. The first, “Seeing Marcella,” was published in 2016 and I’m happy to share this teaser here: “She looks startled, as if she can’t recall how the infant she’s holding got into her arms.” – (click thru to read the full story). At first glance, it may seem odd to have written a story from the perspective of a grown man living in Texas in the 1970’s, looking back on his gang-infiltrated, rough past. But in the context of my journey in 2011, this story makes perfect sense to me now that I have gained perspective.
If you’re curious about how to write flash fiction, you’ll enjoy my Into the Flash course, now open for registration and the seats are filling up! It’s an online 5-week, short form writing course-sharpening craft, creativity, metaphor and mindfulness skills. Make your scenes count. Make the ordinary, extraordinary. Write with precision. Prompts, discussions, readings, critiques & community. Come join us!