Flash Fiction discussion

What is your definition of flash?

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark | 146 comments Mod
I showed you mine definition of flash fiction. Show me yours.

message 2: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (bevjackson) I like your definition, Mark. But not sure that I agree that flash needs a plot. I think some flash can be a "slice" of emotion or event or memory or
dream or even just a thought...if written in a very evocative and thought-provoking way, it will "flash" and communicate something even if it doesn't have a full beginning, middle, and end. But maybe you have a different definition of plot than I do. What's yours? I think of plot as beg., middle, end, and
a rising action, climax, and denouement.

message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark | 146 comments Mod
In my definition a plot is a storyline. Something happened to your protagonist. In a flash, that "something" is better be significant, even if it only seems significant to the protagonist.

message 4: by Ginnetta (last edited Feb 13, 2008 07:55AM) (new)

Ginnetta Somebody once told me. Flash is writing that captures a scene with the least amount of words.

message 5: by Mark (new)

Mark | 146 comments Mod
Flash is more than just a scene.

message 6: by Ginnetta (last edited Feb 13, 2008 09:07AM) (new)

Ginnetta Maybe they mean a scene is the entire process. A scene is short yet it sticks in the mind with some type of wonder or conclusion. When I think of a scene it tells a story a mind can see, an emotion understands with a quick end.

Yet, flash is more than a scene because flash captures the essence of the full story with the least amount of words. I hope that makes sense. Ha!

message 7: by Ryan (new)

Ryan (gomi) | 1 comments Hi, new to the group, thought I'd jump in here.

I've always seen flash as the "important" part of a story, extracted to stand on its own. The best flash I've read (and tried to write) implies a greater narrative behind it, while also being self contained. A traditional short story, by contrast, is its own narrative, full and complete. Instead of a window into a universe, like some novels or short stories are described, flash is a brief strobe timed for just the right moment.

That ends up being a little vague, but, personally, I find some of the detailed definitions out there (word count limits, etc) to be too exclusive.

message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark | 146 comments Mod
You can't get away from the word count. At one (arbitrarily) point flash becomes a short story, a short story becomes a novella and a novella becomes a novel.

message 9: by Dave (new)

Dave Clapper | 4 comments To me, word count is almost the ONLY definition of flash. And, of course, that varies from publication to publication: Mark sets it at 500, at SLQ we set it at 1000. But beyond word count, I'm loath to definte it too much. Writers have come up with too many brilliant ways of surprising me while not meeting any of the defintions I've seen here (I totally agree with Bev that plot is not a necessary element of flash).

message 10: by Clifford (new)

Clifford (clifford_garstang) | 2 comments I heard Robert Olen Butler discuss flash at AWP and I am drawn to his definition. Flash is distinguished from a prose-poem by a narrative that moves through time which is, it seems to me, one way of characterizing "plot." I think this bare minimum of plot is vital. He also talked about how the double-epiphany of short fiction (the Joycean epiphany in its various forms at the end of the story, but also the earlier epiphany where the character's "yearning" is revealed) can be condensed in flash to just the latter. And I found these concepts liberating because until then I had been floundering in a sea of contradictory definitions of flash. For now, this is mine!

message 11: by David (new)

David | 4 comments I like Butler's point, there, Cliff, distinguishing the form from prose poems. But what makes the form different from longer short stories, aside from word count? I don't think it can just be word count. I mean, it seems to me that form and content are tied together tightly, and length is part of form. After all, a a haiku is best suited for some kinds of material, the epic poem for others. So what kind of content is especially suited to a piece of flash fiction, as opposed to a standard-length story or novel?

message 12: by Dave (new)

Dave Clapper | 4 comments I really don't like caging flash within too tight a definition, perhaps because I'm trying to find 80 excellent examples of flash to publish each year. So I love surprises within the form. That said, one of my favorite forms of flash seems to be the condensation of a lot of story into one moment. I think your "Misdirections" does this especially well--there're a ton of things going on in the relationship between the couple, but they all play out in the brief journey of setting the mouse free. I think also that a lot of flash writers try to go for THE moment of the larger narrative, and I think that's a huge mistake. Again referring to your story, I'm certain that there are larger moments within this couple's relationship, greater epiphanies, etc., but this more quiet moment contains everything that is needed, while larger-scale moments would require far more space to breathe.

message 13: by Clifford (new)

Clifford (clifford_garstang) | 2 comments Content? Hmm. I think it's a question of density. Flash is to Short Story as Short Story is to Novel. Butler's differentiation suggests that a flash could be the first two pages of a short story that goes on for another 8 pages, so long as there is the "epiphany of yearning" in those two pages. In other words, the flash forms around that moment, as opposed to the greater moment of realization on which a story usually turns, and that, I think, contributes to its density.

message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (boozer) | 2 comments Mr. Wise ass says, "Ain't that the guy in the New York subway unbuttoning his trench coat?"

Flash: very similiar to a prose poem. What seperates them is often arbitrary: word count.
Although Flash usually looks like an extremely concise short story.

message 15: by Mark (new)

Mark | 146 comments Mod
There was a whole issue of the American Book Review back in 2006, titled FF/PP. Flash fiction/prose poem. It was one and the same for the editors.

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