(I do beg pardon for the short, flashy post. (Haha, get it?) I’m on deadline for 4 nonfiction pieces, and I’m running out of words!)
Flash fiction is hard work. It isn’t for the faint of heart, either. While it seems to be to short stories what speculative-fiction is to literary snobs, flash fiction takes at least as much work as a short story, and far more care.
So why write it?
Aside from its literary value, it is an excellent training tool. Every single word must count, without becoming overblown.
Proper flash isn’t a scene, or a snippet, it’s a micro-story. Beginning, middle and end. Conflict and resolution. Tension and release. Think of it as that twenty-minute snooze on lunch break: you have to go to sleep, sleep, and wake up. None of those things can be missing for a proper nap. (Bonus nap-points for a nice blanket and good dreams.)
Seeing the entire story on one page tightens up plotting, and allows the writer to judge flow and coherency better. It is a good chance to play with style, endings and surprises.
Flash needs depth, as well as beginning, middle and end.
Flash also allows for a higher output. When I started seriously trying to hone my storytelling, I wrote almost nothing but flash. Piece after piece of it, trying to learn how to put words together more clearly, how to raise the stakes and tension. I was able to keep a short turn-around between writing and editing, so I could also see how the drafts changed. (We won’t discuss the fact that I over-corrected and started writing way too lean.)
Besides that? It’s fun. Setting a challenge of a new piece a day stretches muscles. It’s a good warm-up if you’re working on longer pieces, or a way to get out of the all-consuming novel.
So go for it. Have fun. Write mini-myths for your novel, or an event from a character’s past, or the birth of a new species. Push a boundary, take a few minutes to explore the shadows.
Think of it as a tasting menu of fiction: a dozen stories, each with different ingredients, expanding the palate and mind.