Both flash fiction and poetry go right to the heart of what writing is all about.
In both cases, successful writers or poets call upon all the tools that they can to create the maximum effect they feel is possible within a limited number of words. With poetry, those tools are largely language-orientated, compressing both meaning and sound into rhythms which on some level enchant the reader’s or listener’s soul, even if fleetingly. With flash fiction, the tools include a wide range of techniques, including compacting tropes and images into a pursed form to achieve a specific and sometimes lasting effect.
It’s not as though flash fiction is just a ‘squashed’ longer work: to take Tolstoy’s War and Peace, for example, and crush it down into less than a thousand words would not be an authentic piece of flash fiction but more of a constricted summary. Creating flash fiction is not a case of jamming all the elements of a longer story together in fewer words — it is an art form of its own.
Given a certain number of words with which to play, an author is faced with the challenge of evoking a particular emotion, having a specific impact, or leaving a reader wondering — or all three, and more. It might be helpful, then, to look at what flash fiction does not usually do.
In most flash fiction, there is no room for establishing a scene or context — thus most of the stories in this volume plunge the reader straight into a scenario of some kind, out of necessity. Nor is there a great deal of room for character development in the normal sense: we don’t get a full portrait painting, as might be possible in a longer tale, but only a quick sketch of most of the characters here. Plots are similarly squeezed — the luxury of linear development, of having the time and space to create a sense of momentum, of being able to misdirect the reader and manufacture mystery, or even set up the reader to engage in moral decision-making along with a protagonist, all these things are missing simply because there aren’t enough words.
Instead, authors of flash fiction have to know immediately and tangibly what effect they want to create — and they do so very often by what they don’t say, more than what they do. In this book, you’ll see brief evocative descriptions, short accounts, fleeting episodes — with each writer striving to give you a sense of finality, a feeling of closure, a fulfilment or completeness, so that you never feel that you needed to see more in order to appreciate the effect being created.
Flash fiction is often a small, vivid illustration or incident which fades into a larger, wider, unspoken background. The power lies in the unsaid, the inferred, the after-thrill which comes as the ephemeral piece ends, leaving you, the reader, transfixed and transformed.
Enjoy this set of sixty experiences, brought to you by new and established authors from around the world.
Gleam will be available here upon publication.