Written by Lindsay Ryan, Events Coordinator

We all know that prose comes in various shapes and sizes, right? Then why do we typically think of “good writing” as novel-length features or some kind of hard-hitting short stories featured in The New Yorker or some other famous literary magazine? Sometimes, the best writing comes in the tiniest of packages. Take Flash Fiction, for example.

Flash Fiction, or post card fiction, is quickly becoming a popular form of literary art.  Typically, the story will only consist of a few hundred words and distills the narrative down to its core.  More and more, it is becoming a part of the literary landscape. Room Magazine now offers a Short Forms Contest where the maximum entry is 500 words.  There are also many online zines that specialize in genre flash fiction and an online international Flash Fiction Challenge. 

Since Flash Fiction is so new and can be interpreted in so many ways, there are no real literary rules or guidelines regarding the form. Some nomenclature exists around various word lengths, but flash fiction is an umbrella term that covers anything shorter than conventional short fiction, typically set at 1500-6000 words, depending on the publication.

Writing these kinds of short narratives can be challenging considering the word limit, but can also be freeing.  The story may only be a snapshot, or a slice of life.  Ideas can be explored that may otherwise be lost in a larger narrative. Short does not necessarily mean simple. Like novels, plays, etc., the space can be used to deliver a stunning piece of art, a comical repartee, or at the worst of it, navel-gazing dribble. Because of the limited word count, the author must convey complexity of character, narrative, and theme without the luxury (or the burden) of space to develop these concepts in the reader’s mind. Like postmodern poetry, flash fiction occupies its space economically. 

Perhaps it was inevitable that this art form would emerge in our digital age where we can only spare a few minutes to read or write a few hundred words at a time. It would be easy to dismiss Flash Fiction as a lazy millennial’ s form. But, I prefer to think of it as taking a microscope to something and viewing it through a very tight and focused lens, like macro-photography where the beauty of a beetle is exposed where it would otherwise be lost.

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