Flash Fiction

Flash fiction isn’t my preferred mode of story-telling. I read and write novels. I like big, chewy ideas and intricate plots with many fingers. I like games of perspective. I have to force myself to write a short story, and flash is the extreme of short. But I’ve been trying to write some flash fiction for a few reasons:

The very short format works perfectly with my limited schedule. It can be hard to jump into my novels when I only have thirty minutes to write. Also, I’m always looking for ways to become more streamlined. Writing flash fiction helps me hone my editing skills and distill my stories to their essence.

One of the things I like about flash fiction is that it’s fun to finish something. Finisher’s accomplishment has been pretty lacking in my writing life, given that I write every day. I’ve produced two novels, but I’ve written thirteen others, including seven intertwined fantasy books whose revisions never end. Finishing something in just a day or two is thrilling and addictive.

One of the things I don’t love about flash fiction is that as a form it seems to prize stylized writing. That makes sense in such a small format that straddles the line between poetry and fiction, but I avoid flair. I’m more of a concept writer than a poetic writer. I cut anything I think of as pretty or purple on principle, because I know that the phrases I find pretty today make me writhe tomorrow. After slaying my darlings for so long, it’s hard to produce flashy language. We’ll see if my prettiness tolerance increases with more time writing the flash. I’m doubtful. You can’t change a #flashdog’s freckles.

For me the real exercise of flash fiction is aligning the story skeleton all at once, in a flash. The form demands a tight, contained process, unlike the novel, which can start out as a sprawling mess of half baked ideas, goopy plot batter, and colorful sprinkles of random images. Often I feel grumpy about working in such a tight space. But I feel grumpy about Turkish get-ups with the kettlebell, too, and eating my leafy greens. When something makes me grumpy, I know it’s fortifying in the best way.



One thought on “Flash Fiction

  1. This is a really nice piece on your feelings about flash fiction, Emily. I think it shows a good deal of Selbstbewusstsein. I am rather attracted by your sprawling ideas and colorful sprinkles, and feel bad when they are too rigorously edited out. It is quite amazing that you create such expansive novels, even as you pare down to tight exposition and clear succinct expression. I can’t imagine coping with such a swirling richness of notions and ideas and getting them into a final form. Nothing new here. Has your first NYRB arrived? Dad

    Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:07:26 +0000 To: streetjb@hotmail.com


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