I have mixed feelings about flash fiction – more about the writing of it than the reading, which can be wonderful with a well-written piece. But I tend to think long, both in time (ideas take a while to form and develop) and in word count. Nonetheless, writing a story in a given number of words, fewer than 250 say, can be rewarding for several reasons.
- It forces you to be ruthless. Cutting out unnecessary words is possibly the most vital aspect of editing a text, whatever the length. So writing flash fiction is excellent training for that (as long as you remember to carry over the ruthlessness and don’t think ‘OK, I’ve got no limits now, I can let rip all I want’).
- It forces you to write. Stuck for an idea? Many flash fiction events or contests give you a prompt (word, picture, sentence). This has the effect of focusing your mind, and once you’ve committed yourself to doing it, you have no option but to buckle down and be creative.
- At the end, you’ve got something which may one day become a decent story. I say ‘one day’ because that’s the time aspect – I’m rarely happy with a short piece that hasn’t sat in my mind for days, even weeks, and gone through multiple revisions.
Unfortunately, The Book Blogger’s Flash Fiction Foray, in which the prompt is the title of a song, is in temporary abeyance while he revises for exams (good luck!). I like that one, partly because of the nature of the prompt, but also because you can take all week to do it. In its absence, I’ve turned to Micro Bookends. Here the prompt is a picture and two words, the first word at the beginning, the second one at the end, with a maximum of 110 words in between. But you only have 24 hours, which is kind of stressful. Not as stressful, though, as the challenge at Crevoke, where you’re given three words (e.g. spine, young, disarm) and have just 15 minutes to write a story (the counter’s running down on the screen in front of you). The Flash Fiction equivalent of speed dating. Hmm… I’m pretty sure I’d end up tongue-tied.