Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Sudden Fiction

In 1986, Robert Shapard and James Thomas edited the inaugural offering in what would become a series of story collections. Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories is considered the first well-known compilation of what we now call flash fiction. Flash is what it sounds like: a story that occurs in a flash; typically, they are less than 1000 words in length. Make no mistake, however; these stories aren’t lightweights. Blaise Pascal famously said, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Writers of all genres would do well to practice writing flash pieces as cross-training for scene impact, characterization, and conciseness at the sentence level. As a reading experience, flash can and should offer the same satisfaction and depth as a longer story. And all flash is most certainly not alike. Even at this shorter length, themes, genres and types vary as much as they do in longer stories. By way of example, here are three of my favorites from the classic Sudden Fiction.

"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka