Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Wednesday Writing Therapy: What To Make of a Diminished Thing?

I did this exercise with a blog publishing class. We wrote what we loved about our chosen niche--mine was Flash Fiction, as you might imagine--and we wrote in that free association way my high school teachers knew would lead to my discovering truth and becoming a better writer. I wrote this about flash fiction:

Flash fiction is small, really small, and I like that about it, that it begins, for the readers, writer, and characters, almost as soon as it begins. Its condensed nature reminds me of something innocent, something small in the world that is trying to matter among "bigger things." I guess it is like a child in that way, and people view it as a child, as if it were the child of the adult forms--novels or short stories. Like all small things, it could easily vanish and must find ways to last given its nature. It doesn't take long to write or read (comparatively) and that gives it a sense of urgency and rawness. It isn't wishy-washy, unlike me.

Robert Frost wrote, at the end of "The Oven Bird," "The question that he frames in all but words / Is what to make of a diminished thing." A story's dramatic imperative, a term the writer Xu Xi used during my workshops at Vermont College of Fine Arts, asks the question, "Why does this moment, of all the moments in the world, get a story?" Why, of all the stories in the world I could've gotten, do I get the one in which I am a flash fiction writer?

Looking over what I've written, I notice how many times size is mentioned: small, condensed, child, diminished. What would things be if they weren't set next to other things? Would the world be "diminished" if we didn't set it against "Eden"?--against what might've been?

Next to nothing, flash becomes something else, something other than a diminishment, other than what it might've been had you sat in front of the computer a bit longer. What does flash become beside itself? Can the same thing be asked of all of us? What might we be if we weren't compared to each other?

An entry today full of more questions, it would seem, than answers. Flash appeals to me deeply, the way poems always have. If I listed my favorite writers, so many of them would be poets: Frost, Sexton, Whitman, Plath, and so on. If I grasped line breaks, had any sense of musicality, I might've answered Frost's question What to make of a diminished thing? with "A poem!" I see some kind of answer just now, and when I see such a thing, the writing ends. I realize, for me, it is indeed the world that is diminished, and it is that--the world's diminishment--I've set myself and flash against. To think of flash as small, for me, is to see it all wrong. It is the world that is very small--and it is flash, of all things, that enlarges it.

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