On Why I Write Flash Fiction

Why not read some of my works?

“Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.”

— Ernest Hemmingway

People often ask me why I write Flash Fiction. Surprisingly, some of my readers fail to understand most such works. At first I thought this was just my stories, but on further inquiry I found that they never understood the works of most other Flash Fiction writers out there. Most people found it too high a standard, too subtle an art form or too complicated because, and I quote, ‘there is so much contained in such few words.’

Now let me return to the question I had been posed: why do I write flash fiction? The simplest answer would be, ‘because I like it.’ But that would hardly satisfy the more curious lot, so let me elaborate.

As Hemmingway said, ‘All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.’ That is most true. One can always sit and type an entire novella or short story in no time. But the task they could be given next would seem herculean: to compress that, cut the unnecessary parts and make it a mere 500 words in length.

What is Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction is an art of writing which—at its greatest extent, reaches 500 words. There are numerous genres under this style of writing fondly called 69ers and such. There are an ardent group of people who refuse to cross 50 words in length; 69ers have exactly 69 words and some are lenient up to 100. However, the broadly accepted upper limit is 500.

I like to stick to the upper limit because most of my works go quite near that. There are two reasons I do this: firstly, 50 and 69ers are way too short in my opinion, for the common man to fully understand the implications. But do not mistake me, they are wonderful nonetheless, once you catch on to this entire concept of Flash Fiction. And, secondly, all my works focus of building up a cliffhanger that is high enough above the ground to be actually exciting. I do this by taking full advantage of the 500 word limit, not in explaining the scene but in putting more action into composing the existing story.

Not Everybody can Write Flash Fiction

We Flash Fiction writers are an eccentric minority as far as I have seen, and mainly because of two reasons (which I still believe boils down to the same thing) one, not everybody fully understands the implications of a work of flash fiction; and, two, not everybody can ably write with brevity while still being effective. (There is a reason why they call it an art.)

A parenthetical question I often receive is where I (and I am sure they refer to all Flash Fiction writers) get these stories from. While we do not get these stories from anywhere, it is not hard to see what the question really is: how do we come up with so many ideas to write.

The secret (although I can hardly call it that) happens to be that we look around and take in everything, at every moment. In short, remember that there is a story in every moment, in every act, in daily life. It can be as simple as a man waiting on the street for a bus. It can be about how he takes an annoying call only to find it was a wrong number and that he missed the bus in the process. This was just off my fingers so you might be able to come up with something else for it. Perhaps a thriller instead of a comedy? Either way, remember that our only inspiration stemmed from that man at the bus stop.

Implications of my writing

Now we come to areas more centric to my work. I wish to take a moment to make it clear as to how my own Flash Fiction ought to/can be viewed. While this may differ from author to author (and is why I am not generalising it) it may even differ between stories of the same author.

Let us consider the example of one of my newest stories. It is titled The Second One and it is, naturally, suggested that you read it before going ahead. It is flash fiction after all and hardly takes five minutes to read through! You might want to ponder over it for a while before going through my explanation below.

Having read the story, a few thoughts would surely have flashed in your mind. I will take into account three of these possible thoughts for my explanation.

First of all, there is the obvious question as to who is shot. This is left entirely to you as the reader. I love to leave out the very last bits to my reader’s grey matter. Fire it up and come up with explanations. After all, whatever plausible reason you give has just as much validity as another.

This is what I meant when I say (as I often do) that I prefer to leave my flash fiction open-ended. There is the story, there are the facts, but you decide how things turn out. And all I take are a few hundred words to set the scene for you. I write my stories roughly once a week so you can fuel your imagination anew with every passing day!

Alright, onto the next issue: why is it titled The Second One? In other words, what so I mean (or refer to) when I say the second one?

Is it the second bullet? Perhaps it is the second of the two assassins? Perhaps it is something else entirely? Again, this makes the work open-ended. Luckily for me, I could achieve this in this particular story; it may not happen all the time. Many of my earlier stories do not have such open-ended titles. At times, in fact, it pays to have factual ones.

The point is simple: such titles attract and remain with people while keeping with the spirit of flash fiction writing — to make your imagination wander.

Lastly, a slightly more subtle aspect in this story is the sequence I shift the POV in. Why do I begin with the night watch when I could have started with the assassins on the driveway? This is for effect, which, if handled carefully so as not to be a strain on the word count, can help flash fiction beyond imagination.

To expand on this, look at it this way: had I begun the story with the assassins, the watch at the end would have just seemed out of place. And if I had to avoid this, my narration would have to end in the same room of the murder, giving no leeway for a little creative presentation that allows you to think. What is the point if you read the story and not participate in it?

The last one, needless to say, is story-centric and merely for effect &c. especially when (an only if) you have words to spare.

For those who ever wondered why I write Flash Fiction, perhaps this cleared it?

Do read all my stories on my Flash Fiction website and circle me on Google+ to interact more directly and, I daresay, swiftly!

IQ comes with strings attached

Eddie Rodriguez, for Cracked.com, wrote an amusing, yet interesting, article titled 5 Unexpected Downsides of Intelligence. It was interesting, but you know how cracked.com articles can be: playfully funny at first look, with some reading between the lines heavily demanded. So I decided to examine the five traits in a more–perhaps the best way to put it would be conservative–manner (not using expletives, that is, for I absolutely detest them!) Continue reading

Extracts from the Cynic’s Wordbook – Part VII – the letter S

Also see letters P, M, K, C, J and R.

  1. Sabbath – noun An unknown quantity in San Francisco social life.
  2. Sacerdotalist – noun One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a priest.
  3. Sacred – noun Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; as the Dalai Lama of Tibet; the Moogum of M’bwango; the Cow in India; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.
  4. Saint – noun A dead sinner, revised and edited.
  5. Sanity – noun The state of mind that immediately precedes and follows murder. Continue reading

Five things that will make your short story riveting

On a website, you have about ten seconds (maximum) to make an impression on your visitor that will decide whether they stay or not. In a short story, as far as my experience is concerned, it is just the first sentence.

Simple as they may seem, short stories are as complicated and as challenging to write as a novel, mainly because they tell us the same story in a smaller area, with fewer words and without leaving out details.

This really means that not everybody can write short stories that will hold its readers for long.

Below I present five tips that I, having written many short stories all of which have got great reviews and readership, believe any short story writer needs to keep in mind while building that brilliant piece. Continue reading

(What appears to be) a very serious treatise on the criminal

The criminal of yesterday is very different from the criminal of today. He walked free like the innocent of today while the criminal of today found himself freely strolling through his prison cell like the innocent man of yesterday. While the police are promptly imprisoning more men to convince the public that they are working, they seem to have overlooked a subtle fact: the unanimously approved rule that it is the guilty who should be imprisoned. Continue reading

Because death never strikes twice—a short story

The first time that I heard the mellifluous notes of the violin waft through the air, I felt a cold chill run down my spine. Nobody was supposed to be around. The real estate man told me the place was uninhabited at least up to a radius of a couple of miles. And violin notes do not travel that far.

I had bought this house ten days ago. Five days ago, I had got a compound wall erected. Today, I know somebody is in there. It cannot be. Nobody can enter the wall. There is just one gate, covered, locked from the inside, and I have the key. Continue reading