Monday, January 16, 2012

Keeping it Short: Flash Fiction

by Ashlyn Wells
Midwestern Region Student Representative, 2011-2012

I was first introduced to flash fiction while reading a local arts and entertainment magazine—the editors were accepting short story submissions of 500 words or less as part of a contest.  At first I thought it would be easy to write something that short, but when I tried to whip something up, I realized it wasn’t so simple. As a creative writing major, I have gotten very comfortable with the short story, with having several pages I could use to flesh out my character arcs and plot; covering all that in 500 words was a real challenge for me. Having to boil the story down to its most essential elements and focus on each individual word was a great exercise, and one I found fun and useful.

Flash fiction, also known as the short short story, sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, or postcard fiction, is a type of short story that uses as few words as possible. Its word limits can range from as few as 55 words to as many as 1,000. Flash fiction pieces include all the traditional story elements such as character and plot, but the word limit often forces the author to imply some elements they would normally write out. One great example of implied elements can be seen in this short short penned by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Flash fiction contests like the one I first encountered are becoming more and more popular, and one of the places members of the Midwestern region can submit flash fiction is to Sigma Tau Delta’s Midwestern Regional Journal, “Ex Medio.” In addition to flash fiction of up to 750 words, this online publication is accepting poetry and artwork (photography as well as original artwork). The deadline for submission is January 31. View the complete Call for Papers.  As the current editor of the publication, I encourage you to submit or email me with your questions.

Whether you're a creative writer by trade or a casual writer looking for a new and interesting format, flash fiction is a fun twist on a genre we know and love.Try it out and see what the buzz is about!

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