The power of flash fiction
September 9, 2020
A compilation of flash fiction from several highly regarded authors was recently published in The New Yorker so it must be on trend!
Two names I recognised were Haruki Murakami and Joyce Carol Oates.
I’d always thought of flash fiction as very really extremely short stories but the pieces in The New Yorker appear longer than 500 words.
This led me to search for a definition of the term. It turns out that flash fiction can vary wildly in length, from a few words up to 1500 words.
In comparison, a short story is ‘several’ pages long and a lot more words. The next step is the novelette* followed by the novella. (*I’d never heard of it either. It’s a 7500-17,000 word story whereas a novella is 10,000-40,000 words)
A good way to learn the art of flash fiction is to read it and write it. Doh!
Here’s how: The Australian Writers’ Centre runs Furious Fiction, a monthly flash fiction competition. The word count is up to 500 words and entrants must also include specific criteria that changes each month. This might be words, the placement of nominated words (at the start or end of the story), an event or a reference to an image.
The competition is launched at COB on the first Friday of the month and closes at midnight on the Sunday. I’ve entered about five times since COVID-19 and haven’t even made the short- or highly-commended lists! (the judges have yet to appreciate my talent 😉
The competition, which has a $500 prize for the winner, attracts more than 1000 entries from around the world. I love reading the winners’ stories. They are soooo impressive.
I don’t get down about not making the cut (not for long!). I see the competition as a writing lesson and an opportunity to flex my creative muscle. It’s practise.
There are hundreds of flash fiction writing courses available online. But there’s a lot to be said for reading the works of accomplished authors.
If you’re looking for a regular masterclass on how to write flash fiction, grab a copy of Good Weekend magazine in the Saturday edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne. Flick to the back of the mag for Kitchen Sink Drama by Paul Connolly.
Every week, Connolly delivers anywhere from 100-150 words crafted into a small story that captures the essence of our small lives. The Melbourne based freelance journalist and author often writes about absurd and inconsequential events, creating quirky vignettes of what we might consider to be insignificant moments in time.
Connolly’s tight sharp prose filled with a gentle humour and empathy evokes an emotional response in the reader. He touches a nerve that defines humanity and weaves it into a mini masterpiece.
It’s exciting news that Connolly’s stories, accompanied by the illustrations of Jim Pavlidis, will be available in one big book just before Christmas. I, for one, will pre-order several copies. One for me, and a couple for friends.
But in the meantime, you can enjoy Connolly’s wonderful flash fiction online.
I’ve done a few flash fiction contests – the best I’ve done was finalist (and in a contest with a lot less entries!). They are not easy.
That’s an amazing few words by Paul Connolly – multiple actors, action, affect, atmosphere, a sense of place, and lingering questions!