Friday, July 22, 2011

What Doesn't Pass for Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction and How to Write It - Part 3
Read Part 2 Here
Read Part 1 Here

Okay, you come up with a great idea for a flash fiction piece. You're going to add some setting details and characterization so it won't just be snippets of conversation or a brief bit of infodump. You've even got a story set-up to deliver the punch line.

You're now ready...wait, what did you just say? A story set-up to deliver the punch line? Okay, hold the bus. I think you have flash fiction mixed up with something else. You're not trying to sneak in a pun story here, are you? Ha, caught you red handed. (Because I've done it myself!)

We just admitted succumbing to a common pitfall of writing flash. The shaggy dog. The Feghoot. The elaborate story joke. Outrageous, creative, groan-worthy, sometimes even laugh out loud funny. But not flash fiction.

At least in my opinion. Some markets want exactly this, but normally flash ends with an Aha! not an Argh! While a twist ending or a surprise turn of events may be a satisfying (and logical) conclusion to a flash story, the intentional story deception (too strong a word?) for a cheap laugh simply disappoints and frustrates the reader.

Now I don't mind pun stories, in fact, I love wordplay and can pass that internet pun test with both feet tied behind my back (quite a feat!). But I want to know from the beginning what I'm getting into. If you enjoy these type of humorous set-ups, then here are a couple I think you'll like. Okay, those are examples of what flash is not.

So what does pass for flash fiction? Can flash be funny? Sure! But the story shouldn't be a string of red herrings and the ending can't be a non sequitur to the plot. As mentioned, the flash ending should be a natural denouement to the climax - or simply end at the climax or reveal itself (think The Tell-Tale Heart). It can be a bit jokey, but the point is that flash is not an extended joke.

This may be a fine line, but in a closing example, here's my story, "Spam Fiction" published by Every Day Fiction which I think (obviously, I'm biased) presents a bit of humor but within the structure of a real story. A few more of my flash pieces are available in a short collection at Smashwords. Enjoy.

And all the best as you have fun with this popular form of story telling.

[Note: This series continues with a Guest Column by Camille Campbell, managing editor of Every Day Fiction. You can read her blog at Copy. Edit. Proof.]
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