Okay, so “Straight Blonde” isn’t nearly as catchy or winsome as “Curly Red,” so this is the first and last time you will see me use that nickname in reference to myself. I just had to try it out. Don’t you just have to try out the words sometimes? Type ‘em up, read them on the screen—take your ideas for a little test drive?
That’s one of the great things about flash fiction. Its design lends itself well to experimentation. Which is not to say it’s easy or fluffy, or necessarily even edgy. A quick tour around the stories on Curly Red will show you a range of tone and topics, from heavy to light, sunny days to darkest night.
Here’s the deal: whether you view flash fiction as a creative writing exercise, learning tool, or legitimate literary genre (we do), writing flash will make you work. It will sharpen your writing and editing skills. If you can craft an engaging story—complete with a beginning, middle, and end—in 750 words or less, chances are you’ll be capable of longer forms. And once you’ve got the longer forms down, turning a 10-page short story into flash is an excellent opportunity to practice “killing the darlings,” cutting all but the most essential words, sentences, and paragraphs, while leaving intact the story’s guts. Less can be more.
And, just so we’re clear: flash fiction is not the 21st century-American literary fad you may think it is. With roots in ancient fables and parables—from countries as remote from the West as China and Japan—microfiction is nothing new. (What is microfiction, and how does it differ from short or flash or prose poetry or sudden fiction? Is there a difference? We’ll cover these questions in another blog post down the road.) What’s still true of the style is this: it allows you to play with words and ideas, and create a world with very few, strategically selected words. In a very compact space, you can populate this world with characters, color it with conflict, even drawn an arc. And we’re talking hours/days/weeks to make a story take shape, not months or years.
So try it out. Mess around! Sculpt some small but sturdy little tales, and send them in. I am eager to read your work, delighted to serve as editor of stories, and honored to be invited into the worlds you create. (Thanks, Curly Red!)
–Beth Bates, Stories Editor