Wednesday, 16 May 2012

National Flash Fiction Day

I love a good flash, me. Tiny complete micro stories of up to about 500 words. David Gaffney, a brilliant writer of flash fiction, writes about it here in the Guardian. And today is the first national celebration of the tiny genre.

There's a minority who are a bit sniffy about flash fiction... making comments like it's an exercise for writing not reading etc. I'm usually the first to back down in any argument, just for a peaceful life, but I would say these doubters are just plain wrong. And probably idiots, too. (And if I hear/read another 'flash-in-the-pan pun I might micro-punch someone.)

Flash fiction is deceptively hard to write well. There's a lot of crap ones that fall into anecdote, or something like your dad would tell as a joke when he's trying to do stand up. 

What I love is that to be a good flash fiction, every single word works really hard. Every word and stanza is chewed over, moved round, tightened like a nut into place to create a really closely honed story. At the same time it needs to feel effortless - like it sort of just hatched perfectly from an egg or something. The reader shouldn't, in my opinion, feel like they are expected to step carefully round it like a piece of abstract art. They should enter into it and consume. It has to be enjoyed without feeling like the writer is leaning over your shoulder to check that you 'got' it. 

Below, is a flash I wrote. It's not my best, but it's the shortest flash I've ever written at 165 words. And that seemed pertinent for today. I hope you enjoy!

Apocalyptic Middle Age

When it happened we went underground and ate tinned meat and lentils someone had thought to bring.
Through shadow days and sulphurous nights we slowly digested ourselves and tried to hold our snippy tongues. We found ancient, urgent entertainment. Within a year we’d sporned our tendrils further down. Babies wriggled the echoing, narrow gauge tunnels, their eyes filming like Mexican Tetras.
Grounded and trapped we grew nostalgic for a past that our children would never grasp or comprehend like us. Breathlessly recalling details by flickering light; Fraggle Rock, Slouch Socks and Teddy Ruxpin... Pop Tarts and Party Rings… Paula Abdul, Magic Eye and those thumbed pages in Forever… Skip-Its, He Man and NKOTB Hangin’ Tough...
And then someone suggested it might all be over.
We mushroomed through the crust. Emerged. Just brushed our feet through the dust of what was. A lonely, orange moon floated like a toy we’d outgrown and we set our children down into the ash of their future.


  1. 'Micro-punch' - ha ha!

    Fab story - lots going on there! I read your end of the world mermaid one (she was a mermaid wasn't she?) on the WOW site - nice!

    1. Thank you, Clare! How kind! Mermaid - maybe!! that's up to the reader. There were some really fantastic stories on the WOW site. Great examples of brilliant flashing!! How was the final? I couldn't find info on twitter wowfest, or online.