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Understanding Flash Fiction
The Multifaceted FLASH of Light
What Purpose do Very Short Stories Fulfill
As societies around the globe advance, as economies strengthen, as people enter or move farther along in the work force, individuals find that they have less and less time to do the things they really enjoy.
When it comes to reading, many people feel they don't have time for the latest twelve hundred page fiction by the hottest selling author at the time. They miss that experience of consuming a well crafted, satisfying story, but simply can't fit reading into an already packed schedule.
This is the social dilemma which flash fiction is perfectly designed to solve. In the time it takes to boil water for their morning coffee, people can read a well written story that has a definite beginning, strong plot and characters, crisis, creative resolution and end.
Flash fiction has found its niche in the world, but there are still many who have only a vague understanding of this fascinating literary form.
Flash Fiction Author Nathan James Norman Website With Author Reading His Own Work on Video
Unique Elements of Flash Fiction
Two important qualities of any flash fiction story are brevity and word choice.
Flash fiction stories should have many of the same elements as longer forms of fiction. Brevity is crucial to flash fiction, but all of the elements of a story must be contained in each flash fiction story. All fiction, long or short, should have the following content:
- Plot (with strong beginning and ending).
- Conflict (with resolution).
To achieve this unique brevity, a writer of flash fiction must pay close attention to word choice. Adverbs are often the first to disappear. Adjectives should be carefully chosen and used sparingly. The heart of flash fiction is comprised of nouns and action verbs. Side stories are edited out and the back story is kept to a minimum and sprinkled in throughout the story.
There is no absolute standard which dictates the length of a flash fiction story. Flash fiction can be as short as a few words if they communicate all the elements of a story. Some people involved in the flash fiction industry include stories as long as one thousand or even three thousand words. At some point though, flash fiction begins to cross into the territory of short story or novelette.
The History of Flash Fiction
The term "flash fiction" was first used in 1992 by James Thomas, editor of the volume Flash Fiction: Seventy-Two Very Short Stories. But the branch of fiction which we now know as flash fiction has been around for a long time. Aesop's Fables were short stories and, if written today, might be called flash fiction. Hemingway wrote 18 stories which appeared in the book In Our Time. These stories took up a mere 32 pages of the book.
Genre or Literary Form?
Many refer to flash fiction as a genre of fiction. In reality, flash fiction is a form or category of fiction which can encompass all genres. Examples of literary forms are fiction, non fiction, essays and poetry. Flash fiction could, and should, be added to this list.
Genre refers to types of writing within a particular literary form. Science fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery are genres which fall within the literary form of fiction and can also be found within the form of flash fiction.
Great Writers of Short Stories
Flash Fiction vs Vignette
One definition of vignette is that it is a brief evocative description, account, or episode. This is not the definition of a story and does not describe flash fiction. One of the pitfalls of writing flash fiction is that the author writes an anecdote or a sketch but not a complete story. A vignette might describe a beautiful scene where two lovers sit and watch a sunset. The account may describe the feelings of the two and the colors of the setting sun, but no real story is told. A vignette is only a small scene in the larger landscape of a complete story. Flash fiction tells the whole story in as few words as possible.
Famous Authors Who Have Written Flash Fiction Style Stories
Here are some titles of short fiction by some of history's greatest authors. While many of the short stories by these authors are longer than most flash fiction, these writers led the way in writing complete, compelling stories in very few words.
- Kurt Vonnegut-Bagombo Snuff Box (collection)
- Ernest Hemingway- In Our Time (collection)
- Ray Bradbury-The Cat's Pajamas (collection)
- Anton Chekov-Best Short Stories of the Modern Age (collection)
- Franz Kafka-The Complete Stories (collection)
- Arthur C. Clarke-Reach for Tomorrow (collection)
Why Read Flash Fiction?
"Why should I read a flash fiction story of only a few hundred words when I can read a one thousand page work of fiction and get so much more?" More what? More words for sure. Of course there are many great works of long fiction, but does an abundance of words guarantee a better story? One might also ask, why should I eat a ribeye steak when I can consume a whole cow? Well, sometimes too much is, well, just too much.
Flash fiction is not easy to write. The author spends a great deal of time editing, condensing, looking for the most concise way to communicate a thought. In the end, with no waste of words, the reader is rewarded with a story that "stands up, speaks up, shuts up and sits down."
Where do I Find Good Flash Fiction
Some authors have already been mentioned in this article. Here are a few names of prominent flash fiction authors who are writing at the present time.
- Leanne Radojkovich
- Michelle Elvy
- Anthony Varallo
- Calum Kerr
- Thomas Pitre
- Vic Errington
- Amelia Gray
- Barry Yourgrau
- Kathy Fish
- Joshua Scribner
- Ava Delaney
Flash Fiction World, Collection
Flash Fiction on HubPages
There are many writers here on HubPages who are producing some high quality stories. I encourage everyone to seek out these authors and read their works. Reward them by sharing their stories on Facebook, twitter, GooglePlus and elsewhere.
Here are a few writers who have published stories on HubPages.
There are many more which you can find by searching the site for flash fiction.
A Note About Flash Fiction and HubPages
[Author's note: As a result of this hub, HubPages has developed a topic specifically for Flash Fiction stories. Thank you Christy Kirwan and HubPages.]
Visit the Flash Fiction Topic Page.