While not technically a celebration of pervy exhibitionism, Flash Fiction Day can still be a grand opportunity to expose yourself...to good writing. If you’re in the mood to produce, David Gaffney has some tips up at The Guardian on how to write flash fiction. Though I have to admit, Gaffney sounds more like a short story writer writing in extra-condensed form than a true flash fiction writer. Oh yes: there is a difference.
This is not to say his advice is bad or not useful. Condensing sentences to their essential components is a valiant and essential practice. But I think flash fiction (which I’m defining as any piece of fiction under 1,000 words) doesn’t have to consider plot as an adjustment of traditional notions, such as Gaffney’s advice to “Start in the middle” and to “Make sure the ending isn't at the end.” One of the things I adore about flash fiction is that it can provide the kind of space and attention so that "what happens" is more attuned to the effects on the reader than the characters. If you want to feel that for yourself, check out this barrage of Lydia Davis stories, courtesy ofConjunctions.
For me, flash fiction isn’t just about concision and brevity; it's about allowing for a kind of stillness. It’s there on one page, maybe two. There’s no pressure to rush through it to find out what happens next. Good flash fiction can have such careful, loaded sentences that they can stop you in your tracks. It can allow for a kind of complexity that isn’t about sentences being difficult but about sentences that transform how we think. Economy can give rise to mystery, to tensions underneath and between words.
J. Gabriel Boylen, in a review for Bookforum of George Prochnik’s In Pursuit of Silence notes that “the peak of brain activity, of thinking, comes in the tiny pauses between sounds, when we simultaneously process the previous sound and anticipate the next. When noise never abates, brain activity tends to flatline.” Flash fiction, for me, can allow for this kind of stillness, for a kind of quiet filled with transformative activity.