Guest Post, Geoffrey Miller: Flash Fiction is the Belle of the Ball

Flash fiction is the belle of the ball, the flavor of the moment, the soup of the day and apparently well on its way to mainstream acceptance as a separate and unique form of writing. Recent articles in mainstream publications like O Magazine and MacLean’s had articles and pieces of flash as well, most literary journals now have separate submission categories for flash submissions and there are more and more flash only journals out there now. You can even earn a PhD in flash from the University of Chester in the UK. I mean Flash Fiction now even has its own day – just in case you missed it – June 22 demands a red circle on your calendar in 2014. What exactly one is supposed to do on this day I’m not sure, maybe read a piece of flash?

With so much attention coming flash fiction’s way, it made me think – did Juliette hit it on the head when she said what she said about roses or does that only apply to flowers? Huh? Well what is it that you are submitting – flash fiction, postcard fiction, sudden fiction, short-short fiction, micro fiction, palm of the hand story, vignette, or a I was going to say prose poem but then things would get really out of control. Vignette is often used as an example of a piece of flash fiction done wrong so we can knock that off the list as well; leave it for the playwrights. However, that still leaves about half a dozen names in a writer’s jargon. Who cares? If everyone is talking about the same type of writing then does it really matter if we call it something different as long as we are talking about the same thing? I guess Juliette was right after all.

Or was she? For example, when someone passes me a piece of short-short fiction I expect it to have the same basic structural components as a longer piece of fiction, exposition, conflict and resolution, but there will be a greater need for me to assume or hypothesize in order to build the narrative arch into a whole in my mind. Calling that short-short fiction makes sense after all it is a short story condensed into a shorter form, which asks for a little presuming, by the reader.

But I don’t see the flash. The piece is asking me to do something but I don’t have to; there isn’t an uncontrolled neuron flash in my mind if I don’t put my mind to it. TJFKhis is what flash fiction should do, it should present text based on previously constructed mental associations in the reader’s mind in order to create a gestalt piece of writing which comes alive inside of the reader’s mind.

For example,

An inattentive, transient license – “Check it” – high-pitched, estrogenic sound awkwardly steamed from thick, too-big lips covering whimsical precarious tan teeth. Mirrored sunglasses sterilize eyes, plunging transgressor back to fatigued, faded skin, unkempt hair – a mind of questions, comments, demands, justifications – stayed verbally, exposed physically – “Is there a problem?” Pigments, parchments, binding, images relapse then release ribbed steel, scuffed plastic, relabeled boxes reskinned with tape, twine, and plastic that meld into a horizontal borough in motion, eclectic and naïve to the pigment of deities.

That’s how a piece of flash fiction about flying into JFK for the first time would look to me. Yes, now we’ve gotten personal and now you know why I don’t want to let short-short fiction get all the good names, regardless of Juliette and her rose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *