Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flex Your Flash Fiction Muscles

It’s long been said that a failed poet is a short story writer. That’s a bit of a stretch if you asked me, but maybe I feel that way because I’m a wee bit jealous of the poets and I keep scrapping out short stories. Lately though I’ve been noodling with flash fiction. It’s a great way to map out a plethora of ideas and not have to worry about “going poetry”. I’ve been doing this for a while now. You already may have noticed that Flash Fiction as a style of writing has been growing by bionic leaps.

Flash Fiction seems the appropriate medium in our Attention Deficit Age. More and more journals are offering readers bite-sized portions of prose. Today more writers are dabbling in the various mediums to perfect their craft, but also to connect with readers. Many of us have less and less time on our hands because of work, family, YouTube or gaming habits.

Anybody who writes should practice the art of Flash Fiction because the medium helps you focus on being concise, weighing words, and delivering sweet brilliance. You’ll discover that words carry more than meaning. They own their own shape. When I engage in micro-writing exercises, I approach it like woodcarving. I know absolutely zilch about woodcarving, but I imagine that shaving off excess wood is similar to finding the right words and placing them in the right nook of the sentence.

Sometimes it takes a month or two or nine to write a really good short story and many of us may not be invested enough in our characters to take that much time. What’s the solution to our creative quandary? Drop it altogether? Not a chance. Pick an idea or two and give yourself a page’s worth of free writing. See where your stream of consciousness takes you and then you can go back and let the left brain do its analytical stuff.

When you whip up something that you think meets the taste test you’ll be happy to know there are many online and print Zines dedicated to Micro Fiction. Some Zines are exclusively devoted to Micro Fiction: Smokelong Quarterly, Flashquake, Quick Fiction, and Brevity. Boston Literary Magazine focuses primarily on flash fiction, but further distills its passion by offering 250 words (or less), Drabbles (exactly 100 words) and Dribbles (exactly 50 words). The people behind Smokelong named their journal because one can smoke a cigarette while reading a single prose piece. Non smokers will be happy to note you can gobble down a Ring Ding while fully digesting a story.

Robin Stratton, the editor-and-chief of Boston Literary Magazine, has been doing great things with her journal and they are currently taking submissions for their upcoming issues. You can find out more about them by clicking here.

The consummate flash fiction artist keeps climbing the literary ladder. The Micro Award was established in 2007 to distinguish the work of brief brilliance. Kevin Couture is already this year’s winner. His piece “Choosing a Photograph for Mother's Obituary” appeared in the Antigonish Review.

It won’t be long before that old adage about poets and failed short story writers gets tweaked and short story writers are considered failed Flash Fiction writers. It’s a slippery slope out there. You better find your footing fast.

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