Breaking The Rules: Does flash have it’s own rule book, break old ones, or is it like any other form of creative writing?
An online conference about women who write flash fiction
January 8, 2016 at 6:07 PM
The only rule I know of is its 1,000-word limit, although that has always seemed excessive to still be called flash. To me, that’s just a short story. Looking up “Flash” in the thesaurus, you find words like spark, flare, burst, glint, flare, instant, and dash. I would also use the word “crisp.” These are the characteristics that make flash actually flash. So, I suppose you could say that they are rules. Without them, flash becomes “flaccid” and nobody wants that.
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January 9, 2016 at 7:17 PM
I get what you are saying, Jayne, but sometimes the most powerful flash is just under 1000 words. In order to make a story work, we may have to draw outside the lines in some way. That’s how I identified with actual six word stories. The only thing that must speak for itself is the story, however it came to be that. Rules limit and yes, in order to be called flash, there is a word limit, but beyond that, show me something I’ve never seen that resonates, reverberates, and mesmerizes and I say YES!
January 9, 2016 at 7:27 PM
I agree that 1000 words just seems excessive to me for flash after so many years–ha! But regardless, I think the “constraint” of flash fiction is more than just a definition–we push against constraints and something glorious happens. It’s like saying “write a story without the letter “p”–while the constraint may have initially been arbitrary, allowing our ideas to bump up against and mushroom around the constraint is what creates the story that couldn’t have been created otherwise. The story without the letter “p” would not exist without the constraint used to write it.
That said, I do think that one of the coolest things about being on the front lines of flash fiction, and something I will advocate for with my last breath, is that lack of “other” rules. The constraint is 1000 words. But other than that, the territory is wide open and I think that is part of what is so exciting. What I fear is that as flash fiction becomes more mainstream, others will want to impose more rules. I’m already seeing it happening ever so slightly–I’ve heard people say that you can’t have a “reveal” in your last sentences. Well, while these might not be my favorite kinds of stories, I would never call it a “rule” because right then is when I will read the most amazing “reveal” ending of all time…
Down with the rule makers!
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January 12, 2016 at 12:47 PM
Totally agree with you, Nancy. Part of flash’s appeal to me is that it lends itself so well to experimentation and innovation! I’m not a big fan or rules or templates in writing. It just has to be good.
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January 12, 2016 at 12:52 PM
This is something I harp on, but so be it, ha…I do not believe that flash fiction is just a truncated short story! Otherwise, who the hell cares? Just call it a short story.
All a flash fiction requires is that word limit. 1000 words or fewer (and again, I agree with you all that now, 1000 words feels longish) and these three things: Emotion, Movement, and Resonance. How one goes about achieving these three things is absolutely up to the writer.
I feel that without a sense of meaningful change (what I call “movement”) what you have may be more akin to a prose poem. Without emotion, you may have forgotten to engage the reader. Without resonance, you may have just written a quip or a joke or something equally forgettable.
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January 17, 2016 at 10:26 PM
Movement. Yep, Kathy. I love that. I call it a shift, but I bet we’re talking about the same thing. I describe it to students, to readers, that it’s like a cracking open of something tightly held. This crack often occurs in the final line(s), and the pieces I love whip me back around to the beginning, not in a purely aesthetic way, but in a way that now I have something larger to carry with me as I read it again…and again. This is what I know and what I’ve come to love, but I like to think of the word “rule” like a challenge more than a restriction. Prove me wrong. Bowl me over with what I claim cannot possibly be true.
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January 18, 2016 at 12:43 AM
The only rules are:
-Don’t disrespect the story
-Don’t disrespect the reader.
But the word limit, however malleable, is important lest we wander into some other form where there are rules.
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