FLASH FICTION and why you should do it

by Ksenia Anske

Photo by Joel Robison

Being a newbie writer, I never heard the term "flash fiction" until someone mentioned it on Twitter. I was like, what? What is that? And someone patiently explained to me that "flash fiction" is this wonderful thing where you write a quick short story somewhere between 300 and 1,000 words (at least WiKi claims so). Different people might use different terms for it, like sudden fiction or micro fiction. In any case, it's all the same thing, and I realized that I've been writing this "flash fiction" since I was 15, starting with little diary entries and poems. I never thought anyone would be interested in reading my crazy stuff so I didn't think much about it. Until an individual by the name of Samuel Clemons asked me to guest blog for him, and since he is impersonating a ferret on Twitter, my blog entry had to be about a ferret. I wrote 500 words in 40 minutes, and had so much fun doing it, that it struck me, why not do a chain story? Here is the resulting ferret madness by 6 writers. Next Elise Valente, a fellow writer and follower on Twitter, asked me to write a flash fiction piece for her. I did that too. Then Christmas was around the corner and a Bloody Santa vs Zombie Siren flash fiction frenzy took place on my blog, written by 10 writers. And we're about to be hit by the largest flash fiction endeavor yet, EASTER BUNNY APOCALYPSE, a flash fiction chain story by... are you ready?... 20 writers!!! I'm starting to publish 1st Chapter on March 12th, a chapter a day, posting last chapter on EASTER, March 31st. Here are the reasons why you should do flash fiction too.

Gather fresh ideas. The problem with all writers is picking out what to write about. It's not that we don't know, it's just that we have too many ideas! And it's very noisy an distracting in our heads to simply pick one. But then if we do manage to pick one idea, a new problem arises. Is this the right idea? Can I really do it? How about that other one, the one that was sulking in the back of my brain for the last year, that one in a pink tutu? Maybe I should do that one. No, wait, I don't know enough about pink tutus, so I can't do it. Fuck! How about that other one that I saw in a dream? But it didn't have enough conflict... And on, and on, and on. You get the idea. Now, with flash fiction these doubts evaporate like unicorn breath. Puff! And they are gone. Why? Because there is pretty much nothing to commit to. It's not even a short story, it's shorter than that and it barely takes an hour to do. Because of this we don't have enough time to get scared and instead reach into a place where our wildest ideas live. Suddenly, whatever we come up with is not only brilliant, but it also shows us our style and things we care about. More than that. Your flash fiction idea can grow into a novel idea! 

Try your hand. This is a miracle that many typically frown upon. I'll tell you what it is. When I was tweeting and asking folks to join our flash fiction madness, there were a few people whose tweets I loved and who said they wanted to participate, but then privately would send me messages, saying: "Thank you so much for inviting me. Sadly, I'm not a writer and I can't participate." And I was like: "What? What do you mean, you're not a writer?" And they'd be like: "I've never written anything in my life before. And my teachers always said..." You can insert your favorite phrase from someone who told you not to write. I'm sure there were plenty. I managed to convince a few of these non-writers that they are writers and that this is their chance to try their hand. The results were astounding, people wrote amazing stuff. Afterwards, they sent me these "Thank you, oh my God, thank you!" e-mails. See? Doing flash fiction is a chance to try your hand without having anything to lose and only to gain. It will only take 1 hour of your time, and it will make you giddy like you're 5 again - which brings me to the the next point.

Flash fiction is fun! This is as simple as it gets. Go crazy. Go wacky. You can scratch it if you don't like it. There are no long-term commitments to make, no fears to battle. Flash fiction is the ultimate story telling. Remember those stories exchanged by the campfire, those quick snippets of "You know what Jackie told me, the one whose grandpa was found dead in..." You can insert here your favorite one, be it horror or comedy or something else. Writing flash fiction is kind of like flexing your writing muscle before a long run. It doesn't hurt, it feels good, and it's easy. Plus, it's a good exercise of the craft without that trepidation of "is it right or wrong or can I do it." I dare you, right now, as you're reading this, to take your eyes away from the screen and glance into distance. The first object you see, write a flash fiction about that. Set yourself a timer for 40 minutes (this is the shortest time it takes me to write about 800 words) and go! I just looked up and the first thing I saw was a waste basket. Here is my promise to you. if you comment with a link to your blog and your flash fiction story about the first object you saw, I will read it, comment on it, and I'll write a flash fiction piece on my blog about a waste basket. 

What, you're still reading this? Go! Shoo! Go write!!! 

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