Flash fiction. Micro-stories. Short-short stories. They’re all names for a genre of writing which has been around since the beginning of time. Flash fiction stories compress an interesting thought or event into a minimum of words. Zen koans, children’s fables, and religious parables are all forms of flash fiction. In modern times, we tend to use the flash fiction category for works that are less than 1,500 words.
A variety of famous authors have turned their focus to flash fiction. Philip K. Dick, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, and many others have thrived in this short-form world. One might compare the challenge of writing flash fiction rather than a novel to the writing of a haiku rather than an epic poem. It’s an entirely different experience. Our world thrives by treasuring both ends of the spectrum.
In the 1800s and 1900s, flash fiction was usually a highlight feature of a newspaper or magazine. Often the stories came in a series. However, with the advent of modern devices, now flash fiction can stand on its own. Readers happily download Amazon Kindle Vella episodes which are only 600 words each. Short-short stories are found on Wattpad, Radish, and a variety of other platforms.
There are publications which focus on flash fiction. These include FiftyWordStories.com – Press53.com – CarrotRanch.com – 101Words.org – FlashFictionMagazine.com – MoonFlakePress.com – and many more.
Sometimes a flash fiction story is a moment in time, similar to most haiku. Take a look for Franz Kafka’s famous work “Give It Up!” This flash fiction hones in on a harried, lost man who needs help – and what happens when he asks for it.
In other cases, the flash fiction has more of a start, middle, and end. Search for “The Eyes Have It” by Philip K. Dick. This fun comedic piece presents the story of a man who discovers that aliens live amongst us.
And then there are those who write flash fiction as a way to present a longer tale one episode at a time. This is the way the Amazon Kindle Vella system plays out. Several of our Boston Mensa authors are writing episodic stories for this system. Historically, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Edith Wharton all initially published novels as a series of short episodes in magazines. One thing a writer learns when writing serially is how to ensure each chapter ends at an engaging moment. There needs to be a reason for the reader to actively seek out that next episode.
If you haven’t written flash fiction before, consider giving it a try! There are plenty of markets out there eager for flash fiction. Whether you prefer short dollops of moments, complete little stories, or pieces of a longer tale, there are readers out there enthusiastic about delving into your unique view of our world.
Ask with any questions, and good luck!
This essay was first published by Lisa Shea in the October 2021 issue of the Boston Mensa Beacon.