What Writers Know
Flash fiction is short fiction--complete stories rendered in fewer than 1,500 words.
There are outlets for stories of far fewer words, like Dime Show Review, which invites writers to submit ten-word stories. Ever try to tell a complete story in ten words? Yeah, me neither. I require a minimum of 53 words, and am working on a couple of those now.
Part of what I love about flash fiction is that it lends itself to experimentation. It's a playground for goofing around with different genres and voices and techniques. Just give me a prompt and a word count, and I'll give you a story, or maybe just a character sketch. Blank pages don't unnerve me if all I have to do is lay down 53 or 101 words. I can spend contented hours on end getting the words just so. I love the craft of writing every bit as much as the creativity.
Still, I don't consider myself a fiction writer (kids' books notwithstanding), so I was surprised when, after working up my courage to submit a story to Flash Fiction Magazine, it was accepted. I wrote "The Dancer" years ago in a writing workshop. The instruction was to read The Spanish Dancer, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and write a story on whatever comes to mind. Buoyed by that small success, I kept on writing my little stories.
But damn, the stuff bleeding from my imagination can be dark. One of my more macabre pieces, "The Lesson," was published on 101words.com. I imagined this story one night after looking up at the waning moon and thinking how sinister it looked. It made me wonder that people fixate on the full moon as the stuff of horror when a fat, happy, bright moon seems so benign in contrast to a sliver of a moon, so stingy with light.
Writers understand how an innocent prompt or a rogue thought can yield unexpected results. The rest of you: take my word for it, and try not to be alarmed.