Tomorrow (22nd June) is International Flash Fiction Day and to celebrate this I’m taking part in Flash Mob 2013, which is a kind of competition/blog carnival featuring writers from all around the world. You can read some here by clicking on the photograph of each writer.
Up until a year or so ago I didn’t really get flash fiction and it wasn’t something that appealed to me at all. I always have too much to say so there was no way I could narrow it down to 500 words, and especially not 100. I am regularly laughed at for the length of my texts. I ramble endlessly in my emails and when I was studying for a degree my tutor must have got bored with writing ‘try to be a bit more concise’ across the bottom of my essays, the ones that invariably laughed in the face of the word count.
But I read some I really liked in a book called Not So Perfect by Nik Perring and in a conversation with him he suggested I have a go, which I did. And I surprised myself by how much I liked it.
There’s something very pure and stripped back about flash fiction. One thing that often annoys me in fiction is the use of too many flowery adjectives and similes. It feels like it’s all fluff and air and no substance, like I’m being conned. A bit like eating a cheesy puff. Maybe that’s why I like both reading and writing flash fiction, the words are highlighted, every one matters and there’s nowhere to hide. You have to get to the point and there can’t be any fannying around. Some of the most powerful things I’ve read have been in less than 500 words.
It’s not for everybody and some people will never get it. Some people look down on it as an inferior form of writing, as people often look down on the short story as not as ‘proper’ as writing a novel. But with a novel you get time to develop characters and situations, in short stories/flash you don’t and that takes more skill, not less. For me, it’s all practice, it’s all part of the continuous process of finding my voice and discovering what I like to write about and how I like to write it. It’s a great procrastination ploy, a way of putting off getting on with The Novel for another day. It’s also a great way of getting over writer’s block. If I’m stuck and don’t know where to go next I try and write something short, something that doesn’t demand too much time, and it gets me back into writing again.
I also find it impossible to hear or see the words Flash Fiction without having this go through my head, from what is surely one of the best films ever.,and for that reason alone you should all go and read some right now.