Michelle Wittle On Flash Fiction

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

When I think of flash fiction, I get an odd image in my head. I am on a subway and a scruffy forty-ish year old man with a dirty salt and pepper beard is there in his tan raincoat. He walks over to me, flashes me and then walks on as if he didn’t just show me his birthday suit and as if that is a normal thing for people to do. Like within that moment, he showed me everything and nothing. It was a snapshot of his raw human essence. I am left wondering if I just did see what I thought I did just see. Oh and yes, it is creepy but leaves me with something to think and talk about.


To me, that is the purpose of flash fiction. In less then a thousand words, you get a raw snapshot of a moment. You get the basic foundation of a story. Maybe saying you get all the necessary details is better. But to me, flash fiction is like a punch in the gut. A quick jab that leaves you hunched over and breathless. When you finish reading one, you should have a Batman type word over your head (like “Pow!” or maybe “Boom!” in the crazy comic book writing).


I also see flash fiction as a photograph. You look at it once and smile. You say, “oh what a cute baby” then just move along to the next picture. Days later, you look again at the photo and you are taken aback because who’s hand is lightly holding that baby in the picture? Why is the picture so blurry in that one spot? You don’t remember anything unusual happening when the picture was taken and you definitely didn’t see that the first time you looked at the picture.


Am I wrong in this assumption of flash fiction? Do I just think I am Ms Smarty Pants and I am missing an important detail and aspects about this genre? Why is it so difficult for me to get a handle on this genre? Is it like poetry and just not for me? Am I so undisciplined that I can’t get the rules down? Should there be so many rules in writing? Who are the judges of all the rules?  What am I doing wrong?


Again, that question of “why am I writing” comes to my mind. I need to learn to tell my stories as I truly seem them and stop trying to force them to fill a requirement. It’s difficult because so many people have different ideas on what is acceptable and what isn’t. But, I think all writers have to be able to be happy with what they have written and accept that maybe this person doesn’t like it. We have to search for the person who does like our story. I won’t lie; it’s difficult to look for that person or magazine. But don’t we owe it to our stories and our characters to find the best home for them? 



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