The Definitive Flash
Fifty Shades of (Very)
For certain, almost
always, rarely never, flash fiction demands a word count, not the outdated kind
once done by counting words per line of type and multiplying by the number of
lines, but the precise count of technology. 100 exactly. Not a word more than
750. At some point (500 or less?) it’s microfiction, a few words more it’s
sudden fiction, then flash. Or maybe it’s flash then sudden? At a 1000+ word
count, it’s most likely, but not always, going to the short story editor. Go
In writing of the
one-line poem, Michael McFee argues that it “is not a longer poem condensed, a
larger block of text whittled down.” It is, he asserts, “a product of
deliberate pressure, not a casual or accidental creation.” The author must
“conceive of his material that way, must write it that way, and must mean for
the audience to hear and/or read it that way.” The word count requirement of
flash fiction misleads authors into thinking of flash as a short story told
with fewer words. It might be that. It might be other things, too.
The best flash writers
perhaps set out to write flash fiction. They don’t end up with a flash piece
because something longer failed. Maybe sometimes they do. I’d like to think
they begin with the idea of brevity, a very tiny space, think of how largely
they might fill it.
It’s a cop-out, in the
current world of postmodern sensibilities, to say that nothing can be defined.
In such a world, boundaries don’t exist, but what is more bounded than flash
fiction, confined by that continual count of word after word. Flash fiction
ticks, like bombs and clocks, aware of its end before its birth. What is flash
It’s this. And more. And
Fifty Words on Fifty
Definitions of Flash
1. a brief, sudden burst of bright light: a
flash of lightning.
Out of nothing, first
struck and burning out simultaneously, into the middle of things, when the
ho-hum turns extraordinary, gone “ere one can say it lightens.” Brief, sudden,
bursting, and bright. Crackling with energy. The story expends itself–and the
world returns as it appeared that brief, unblinding moment before.