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Over in a Flash

There is a new craze in the writing world known as flash fiction. I think it is an idea that came out of blogging. The theory, for those interested, behind blogging is to keep postings short. What I’ve read is to keep them below 500 words. Why? Because most people reading on the internet won’t read anything much longer. We live in a generation with hectic lives. Various responsibilities pull for our time. In fact, the more technology comes out to make work “easier” the more work we are able to cram into a day. Very few have time to sit and read a 2,000 word essay on why I think writing is awesome…at this point I’m not sure I could stand to write that long of an article on the topic, but hopefully you get the point. We need it now, short and sweet.

So, naturally, flash fiction comes out. In a class I took last January, we read one boasted as the best example. Because I keep everything, I have the link to the story for your own enjoyment. Flash fiction is defined as a story under 1,000 words. I have tried writing competitions that limit word count to 2,000 words. For me, this is hard. I know many who would readily take 1,000 words over 2,000, but let me pose something to you. You must write coherently. It can’t be a gibberish rant of 1,000 words. It must have somewhat of a beginning, middle and end. Tell a story and wrap it up in a page, maybe two. It must be concise because every word matters.

Talking with writers, I often find a phenomenon that remains true. There are those who can master the short work, whether it be the traditional short story (anywhere under 20,000 words) or flash fiction. They can write in the short term. They come up with wonderful tales with hidden motifs. William Faulkner comes to mind here. There are those writers who have mastered the super short, for example poems. And then there are those writers who have mastered the long works. I know some who cross into all realms, which pushes me to keep trying. But I think they even have a favorite.

My novels typically run around 110,000-120,000 words. Naturally, I struggle to be short. My plots become too complicated. I struggle to be concise. I just wrote 300 words for a school magazine. It took me two hours. I know, I hang my head in shame. But my mind does not work that way. But that’s okay because others can crank out 300 words in a half hour and yet can’t keep it going for a novel.

Everyone has their nook. I see it in teaching as well. There are those made for elementary (God love them) and those for secondary and those for collegiate. We are each made for something different. I would not want to live in a world where this wasn’t true.