Do you read or write #flashfiction ?

I recently read this wonderful interview with author David Swann, and his definition of flash fiction:

“it helps to remember the word ‘flash’ itself – a novel’s like a set of floodlights, shining down for the whole match. But in a flash you’ve arrived late for the match and the stadium’s in total darkness, and you’ve got a few seconds of light left in your torch, so where are you going to shine it, and how will you find your seat? And what will you see there in that flash-bulb moment? And how the hell are you supposed to manage to eat a hot dog at the same time?”

Bath Flash Fiction Award: Shortlisting and Judge's Commendation
Bath Flash Fiction Award: Shortlisting and Judge’s Commendation

I’m a fan of the genre, but as Swann says, it is a difficult one to read: it’s brevity gives the illusion of ease, but in fact, each piece is an entry into a different world, and you need to stay alert as a reader:

Because flash requires a lot of attention, just as poetry does (and other short fiction). That’s partly because it’s compressed, so you have to be on the alert (the German word for poetry is ‘dichtung’ – to seal, or to shut… so there’s a suggestion of closing down the space, and being economical). And, as a reader, you have to keep starting again with every new piece of flash, so there’s a lot of energy required. You can’t just fall into the dream.  The challenge for the writer is to make the compression invisible, to try to hide the hard work.

Last week, I received a judge’s commendation at the Bath Flash Fiction Award with my story Picasso Dreams. This was a shock.

I knew I liked the medium, but didn’t know I could actually get somewhere with it. I’ve been full of doubts about my writing lately, so the judge’s words were very encouraging:

Blue Betta Splenden, Siamese Fighting fish
Blue Betta Splenden

‘Picasso Dreams’ is a kind of conceit about the nature of imagination. The brisk, clean prose is somewhat at odds with the subject-matter, and this creates an interesting sense of dissonance. It’s visual too, with the dreamscape enlivened by flashes of blue and lime green. An imaginative, original story.

The story started from this Daily (w)rite, in writing about fish, so that’s another thing I have to thank this blog for. Out of a 1000 entries to the Bath Flash Fiction Award, 50 were longlisted, 20 were shortlisted. 3 winners and 2 judge’s commendations were chosen from the shortlist. I’m kind of gobsmacked that mine was 5th out of a 1000 entries!


What about you? Do you like reading or writing flash fiction? Did you read Picasso Dreams? What did you think it was about?

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Add Yours
  1. vishalbheeroo

    I’ve dabbled a couple of times and not so sure, I got it right. The inputs are valuable on the compressed part and will try writing next time in this direction:)

  2. Jacqui Murray

    I don’t write flash fiction–I don’t even write short stories! I can’t get my thoughts squeezed into so few words. It certainly would be a good exercise for me.

  3. Harry...the Man!

    Yes, congratulations on this achievement.

    I have never read flash fiction before, but this seems like a wonderful genre. I feel that it might take up a lot of my spare time in future.

  4. ydandgavhal

    Congrats Damyanti! The story is really nice! It sways among the solitudes of the four characters; but depicts the story of many people’s lives. Keep it up!
    Thanks for reading my story and hope you enjoyed it, too.

  5. macjam47

    First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!
    I love reading flash. It always amazes me when someone can put so much story in so few words. There is a 79 word challenge going around, and some of the stories are incredibly good, I mean really great.

  6. Ruth2Day

    well done to you. I don’t really read it, and I don’t really get it. Perhaps this is because sometimes the “flash” I’ve read seems incomplete. Is the idea to read what is presented and then draw conclusions, or is the author to tell a complete story?

  7. ianscyberspace

    “flash requires a lot of attention, just as poetry does (and other short fiction). This is so true! I can spend hours over a poem and constantly rewrite it. Compression requires a lot of thought.

  8. Norah

    Congratulations on your commendation. Thanks for linking to Picasso Dreams. I enjoyed reading it. A story within a story within a story, like a Babushka doll. I sometimes wonder if life is really like that.
    I do read and write flash fiction. I participate in a weekly flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch. It is a lot of fun. Here is a link to last week’s compilation:
    A new challenge will be posted tomorrow.

  9. G.B. Miller

    Congrats on a job well done!

    I don’t really write flash fiction anymore, as I found it to bee too constraining. Having said that, I did have a 1 1/2 year period (2009-10) in which I got the bug and churned out almost 5 dozen flash fictions stories for a now closed short story blog. If anything, I did receive quite a few writing tips from my readers in regards to the stories themselves;, for which I am eternally grateful, but other than that, it basically became a minor taste that needed to be satiated. Once satiated, I moved on and never looked back.

  10. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti – well done on getting that shout out .. amazing … I’m so pleased for you. I wanted to email about something … but can’t seem to find the link … I’m full name without the hyphen at … and then I’ll be able to write to you .. thanks so much – cheers Hilary

  11. Leigh W. Smith

    I couldn’t let this post pass without commenting and offering congratulations, Damyanti. Way to go! I did read “Picasso Dreams,” and I enjoyed it; I love a frame-within-a-frame kind of story, and always have. Leaves me feeling wistful but kind of hopeful, too. The creative impulse is a strong one, but it’s also draining in its own way. I think you captured that well in this story-within-a-story. As for me, yes, I do enjoy reading and writing flash fiction; I’d like to feel like I’ve ‘mastered’ flash fiction or shorter-form fiction, if I ever do, before I move on to serious novella or novel writing and marketing of such.

    • Damyanti

      Thanks Leigh!

      But I’d like to say that tho flash and short stories are slightly similar, novel-writing seems to demand the exact opposite skill-set 🙂

  12. clanton1934

    My blogs have all turned out non-fiction. When I have started each piece, it always seems to be obviously autobiography, so I just give in and write about my experience and ideas. I will continue to read your work. Perhaps I’ll “catch” something from you.

  13. misskzebra

    When I first started reading other people’s flash fiction, I had no idea how they managed to do it. The challenges seemed difficult, and I didn’t know how people managed to create such interesting stories in so few words. Eventually I was brave enough to try it out for myself, and I’ve found it a really good tool for improving my writing technically, and figuring out how to make every word count.

  14. ccyager

    Flash fiction is something I’ve been thinking a lot about during the last few years. I’ve had something from a fiction workshop, a 50-word piece that I’ve wanted to develop but keep it short. I need to read more flash fiction — I always seem to end up with either novels or short stories rather than flash stories. I LOVE what David Swann said about it. I’ll probably post that above my desk as a reminder. Thanks! Cinda

  15. cricketmuse

    I teach Creative Writing and AP Lit and feature flash fiction to show students how the marriage of poetry and short story can result in something amazing.

  16. thewriteedge

    First, congratulations on the commendation. You should be proud.

    Every writer battles doubts, but I do believe those doubts can be beaten back. If you’d like to battle these doubts together, I’d be honored to join you. It could be something as simple as dedicated encouraging emails/blog comments or sharing drafts or anything else.

    You have a depth of talent to be envied and most certainly admired and shared. Thank you for sharing it with all of us, your readers. Keep writing!

  17. pia jingco

    I would like to consult with you about something. I have considered entering some of my flash fiction into contests but am not sure about the rule, “Entries must not have been previously published in print or online.” If I have posted it on my blog and in some writing boards, received feedback and then improved on it, will the revised version be acceptable? Sorry for the mundane/silly question!

    • Damyanti

      Hi Pia, Thankyou! not a silly question at all. If you publish it on your blog, it is considered previously published. If it is published on open, public writing forums, it is ‘published’ too. Closed writing forums that require a password to view, and are not indexed on search engines, are considered ok. This is my understanding. Someone with a different/ better say might come along to correct me though. Each contest has its separate rules, so read those carefully before submitting. Hope this helps.

  18. Claire St. Hilaire

    Congratulations on your commendation!

    I love to write flash fiction. It is a fun challenge to focus so completely on a subject and to figure out how to immerse the reader in the characters and story in less than 1,000 words.

    I think some of the best examples of flash fiction come from parables, fables and stories originating in oral tradition. These ancient stories not only engage the reader in the plot, but also pass on some element of human wisdom through a simple illustration.

  19. noblethemes

    As Sha’Tara said, I’d never heard of “flash fiction,” but I suppose my own mytho-poetic pieces (of late) would, in some sense at least, fit the category; they certainly are “flashes” into mythic scenes. The only difference is, there is a thread that holds them together as (more or less) ongoing episodes. At any rate, I’m certainly enjoying the challenge! LOL 😉 Oh, and congratulations! It’s always encouraging to not only have readers, encouraging comments, but also reward-recognitions for your work! So double-congrats! 😀 And all the best w/blessings!

  20. DJ Cockburn

    Congratulations on recognition well deserved. I particularly like the unspoken conceit, that the outward movement from the fish implicitly ends with you, the author. I’ve been experimenting a bit with flash recently, but never managed anything close that sort of subtlety.

  21. Sha'Tara

    Never heard of “flash fiction” until this. Apparently it’s a form of short short story under a thousand words according to Wikipedia. I checked some of my short stories (my favourite writing genre) and found one on my WordPress blog at under 600 words – The Universal Taxi. I like ss stories because the theme is easier to get than through a long poem. I’ve basically discarded free verse poetry years ago – too convoluted. I don’t want to have to work that hard to either express a point, or get someone else’s point. Give me a short, short story – or, um, “flash fiction” any day. When I read I don’t want a puzzle to unravel: I want to know what the writer is saying, not the… “I know you believe you understand what you think I wrote but I’m not sure you realize that what you read is not what I meant.” Say what you mean, mean what you say.

  22. Seyi Adeoye

    I read Picasso dreams and I love it. You deserve the award.

    Writing Flash fictions require a little more discipline and yes, that makes it kinda harder. You just have to pay attention to every word, Be sure it has a business being included in the story.

  23. Elusive Trope

    I remember one of the most intense discussions I had in my writing workshops was when the professor asked the class: “What’s the difference between a prose poem and flash (or sudden) fiction? Does it matter what labels we impose?” When comparing the two forms, the quote at the beginning basically defines both.

    I read Picasso Dreams and loved it. Beyond the flow and rhythm of the words, the imagery, there exists so many layers, which feed upon each other, never stopping.

  24. siriusbizinus

    I just read Picasso Dreams, and I loved it. Flash fiction is kind of like a prose poetry – to me at least – and so I agree that it’s about capturing that thought in a few words. While a novel explores, flash fiction is just a picture.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the point of your piece had to deal with the name of Picasso. He was a Cubist, if I remember correctly, which involved seeing multiple perspectives of the same object in a painting. You captured that art form splendidly, by providing the perspective of the fish, the character, the writer of the character and the fish, and the perspective of the reader over all of it. That’s not easy to do, and to do it in a few words takes guts and skill.

    Or, to put it succinctly, my mind was blown by your awesome.

    Great post, and great flash fiction.

  25. kim881

    Sorry about that – I am having problems with my Kindle. I didn’t get anywhere this time but will keep entering stories.

  26. nanluke81

    Congratulations on your award! Don’t know much about flash fiction but your story made an impression on me. I may have to try my hand!

  27. luna_n

    A short story I read recently was “Flowers for Algernon” by Keyes, which I enjoyed a lot so your post made me curious to find out about flash fiction. I will check out your piece and congratulations!

  28. Michelle McGill-Vargas

    Congratulations! I do enjoy writing flash fiction and have had a couple of pieces published in journals. Sometimes it’s hard for me to come back to writing anything longer that 1000 words after I’ve just finished a flash piece.

  29. odell01

    I agree, you deserve the Inaugural Award. It could be that Picasso Dreams is about two people’s lives who are faintly connected and parallel in some aspects but also going in two different directions. Flash fiction is occasionally fun. Nice to catch you doing this.