Flash fiction — from six-word stories to twitterature to “longer” pieces of 750 words — is all the rage these days, as much as there can be rages in the world of letters. As skeptical as I am of fads, the literary flash may be here to stay. It’s easy to dismiss as a gimmick, a device cooked up to pander to our disastrously truncated attention spans, an outlet for dilettantes. It’s certainly true that this is a form that would never have found traction prior to the rise of the Interwebs. And like all forms of literature, examples abound of the good, the bad, and the ugly. But the good, it turns out, can be very good indeed. May I direct your attention to 100wordstory.org. This compendium of carefully distilled little gems was co-founded by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and it showcases pieces that celebrate the magic that happens when a writer lets the reader supply what’s between the lines.
The rules for the 100 word story are simple: it has to be 100 words long, not including the title. Not 99 words, not 101. Like a sonnet, this form forces the
writer into a very tight frame, which creates both tension and freedom. Within that miniature frame can exist whole worlds.
As a reader, I am drawn to the sense of participation in this micro-burst format. As a writer, it’s a fascinating challenge, a call to concision, a dare to distill. What are the bare bones of a story? What can it live, and thrive, without? What might the reader be able to do better than the writer, and how best to get out of the reader’s way?
Scroll through the pieces on the site and you’ll find mystery, humor, and the wildly experimental. One I recently savored is “Your Wait Time Will Be A Figure Eight” by Todd Mercer: sardonic, witty, not-so-far-from-possible.
Taking up the gauntlet, I recently submitted a piece of my own to 100wordstory.org. They are understandably up to their eyeballs in new submissions, so I have yet to hear the fate of my entry, but I don’t see anything in their submission rules that precludes me sharing it with you right now. So here’s my very own 100 word story:
After It All Falls Apart
No, we can’t eat those plants. They’ll make you sick.
I miss Daddy too. No, he can’t come back.
There’s no water. Put a pebble in your mouth.
Wait. Shh. We’re like little mice, remember?
Because we can’t let them see us. Yes, they’re all bad men.
No, I won’t let them get you. I promise.
You have to hold still now. Cover your ears.
Because there’s going to be a big sound. Yes, I’m crying. Just a little.
It won’t hurt. Just a bang. And then you’ll see Daddy. I promise
Hold still now. I’ll be right behind you.
Let me know what you think — and does flash fiction appeal to you? Please comment and share!