Why Flash Fiction

I believe in "learning by doing." It's how I've learned the majority of the valuable skills that I have. Practice, emulation, trying, failing and doing it all again. Wax on, wax off, as we of a certain generation would say.

In the Salon Méditerranée, every session begins with a read-aloud of the first few lines of last week's flash fiction prompt. I do it for the sheer pleasure of showing Salon members the amazing diversity of creativity that can flow from the same prompt:

The blue vase toppled from the piano at precisely the same moment that the red candle holder on the coffee table fell...
The blue vase toppled from the piano at precisely the same moment that the room turned silent.
The blue vase toppled from the piano at precisely the same moment that Mahmud rushed out in anger and slammed the door shut.
Abruptly, she stopped singing, and peered at the red notification sign on her phone.
Abruptly, she stopped singing, and peered at the red dress in the front row. The woman wearing it was crying.
Abruptly, she stopped singing, and peered at the red-haired girl clinging to a man’s leg among the crowd clustered on the sidewalk.

Each Salon session ends with a new prompt for the following week. The rules of our flash fiction are this: Each story must be a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 750 words. Stories must be written within 48 hours. That's it.

But - why do we do it? Well, first, it's just fun. Second, when writers are slaving away on a manuscript (or, alternatively, feeling awful, guilty or stuck about NOT writing) writing something silly, for no particular reason at all is a very rewarding, low-stakes thing to do.

But there's more to it than that. Flash, or "sudden," "nano," "micro-stories," or "post-card stories" are a powerful creative expression. This is, according to writerly myth, the shortest story in the world, and has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Flash fiction has a long history - some say going as far back as Aesop. For writers, flash fiction teaches a strict discipline: write a plot-driven VERY short story, with as few words as possible - and land your punch. Wow your reader. Make every word count.

As an editor, I frequently find myself telling writers to cut cut cut. The more slashing and burning a writer can do - the more potent the story becomes. Flash fiction is a writing exercise par excellence.

When written on a deadline with a group of like-minded writers, in which the object of the lesson is to have fun, when possible rewards might include getting published, flash fiction is not only a literary art form but an amazing writing exercise to help writers shake of their rust, dust and doubts and simply WRITE.

Please join the Salon Med as we learn, write and play together. Mention this blog post and get one session free.


-Flash Fiction publications, writers and links.

-21 Flash Fiction Stories to Read Anywhere.

-Submit to Flash Fiction.com.

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