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


Tuesday Flash Focus: Steve Almond’s “How You Know You’re an Adult”

FlashFiction.Net concludes the unofficial Steve Almond month with a flash from his collection of mini-essays and short shorts, This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey. Previous entries in the Almond series include a reprint of a mini-essay on plot, an article about his advice on withholding information from readers (Don't!) and Todd B. Stevens's review of Almond's This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey. Below is Almond's short short, followed by a brief discussion:

Flash Fiction Symbol


Reprinted with the permission of the author © Steve Almond 2009

Flash Fiction Symbol

  • Suddenly, it begins--not once with suddenly, but twice. That's surely a no-no, yes? Elmore Leonard, in Rule Six of his Ten Rules for Writing, advices writers never to use suddenly (or all hell broke loose). But there suddenly suddenly appears. Suddenly socks might not quite be what Leonard had in mind when he banned the word; maybe he was thinking more on the line of, "Suddenly, she pulled out a gun and shot him. Suddenly, he realized he was dead. Suddenly, the door flew open." Suddenly socks. That's magical.
  • Sounds. Suddenly. Socks. Silk. Subtle. Slate. See. Nice. Socks. Sangfroid. (A word that has to do with cold-bloodedness, grace under pressure, socks under shoes. Snakes?).
  • Desire. Ways to make your flash unlike others? Create a desire rarely seen. Here's one: "You covet other men's socks."
  • Archetypal Themes. Ways to make your flash expand beyond its boundaries? Connect the rarely seen desire with a universal archetypal desire. Here's one: "...and you rise and walk like a grownup."
  • Second Person. A risky choice, for it puts the reader on the defense. Almond writes, "You see yourself in nice socks." A reader might respond, "Really? No I don't. I'm sitting here reading a story. That's what the f*** I'm doing." Why does second-person work here. Maybe it's because it reinforces the theme, of walking in someone else's shoes, well, someone else's socks. Or something like that.
  • Metaphor. The desire for socks (I accidentally typed "cocks." Freud is happy.) is indeed really the desire for socks in this story, but it's also the desire for something else, the thing(s) that socks represent. Many things might arise to fill the meaning implied by socks. Almond associates them with unlousy gifts, fabrics, colors, cities, walking, other men, life coming together, women's responses, sangfroid, new interest, not lingering, not looking forlorn, hints, grandparental correspondence, thank-you notes, little grace, little love, inside the fabric. Each of these has its own metaphoric meaning, and that patterning and juxtapositions of socks and images create a very rich image pattern that can be deciphered, if one so desires. It might have to do with the "knowing you're an adult" of the title; it might have to do with something entirely else.

Flash Fiction Symbol

For further reading, check out FlashFiction.Net's suggested readings of flash fiction and prose poetry collections, anthologies, and craft books, by clicking here.

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Oh Ran­dall. Of course I love Steve Almond’s Flash but I also love your own com­men­tary, espe­cial­ly this:
(I acci­den­tal­ly typed “cocks.” Freud is hap­py.)

Thanks. Are socks fem­i­nine (the foot enters the sock) or mas­cu­line (phal­lic-like? snake-like?)?

I’d say that socks are fem­i­nine unless they’re argyle. 

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