Written by Ella Peary February 6th, 2020

Why You Need Flash Fiction in Your Writing Life

Flash fiction isn’t a newborn, but it has been reborn in our time. More and more literary journals are seeking flash fiction—usually under 1,000 words—and more and more successful authors—novelists, poets, essayists—are adding flash fiction to their daily writing routines.

Flash fiction is a hybrid form, it looks a little like fiction and a little like poetry, but it has a personality entirely its own.

For one, flash tends to be more of a risk-taker than either of its parents. Like a sudden flash of revelation or an unexpected transformational event, flash fiction will convince you to do things you might not do otherwise. I think that’s why flash fiction works as such a powerful tool for processing life’s difficulties and complexities: the short short form facilitates change.

Of course, there are many other reasons to write flash fiction. Many authors find that they become better writers when they regularly practice the challenge of distilling a story to its essence. Flash fiction asks a lot of its author, and its somewhat unforgiving nature lays bare both the writer’s most luminous gifts and hidden shortcomings.

At the same time, many authors find freedom in flash fiction since its brevity invites wild experimentation. The form requires ingenuity for success, but flash fiction also accommodates frequent failure. You gain far more than you lose when you write an unsuccessful flash.

Some authors find they like to write flash fiction on days they don’t want to write anything. They can enjoy the instant satisfaction of writing a story in one sitting and revel in the fun of writing.

Other authors write flash fiction to add bulk to their publication record, and still others compose short shorts to solicit frequent feedback on their writing.

But perhaps more than anything, the unprecedented surge of love for flash fiction is a response to the dilemma of our lightning-speed modern lives: Flash fiction is powerful, but it doesn’t demand a lot of time.

The rebirth of flash fiction hints at a part of the human heart undernourished by fast-paced living—a part that needs literature for its well-being. Could it be that flash fiction—with its transformational potential—was born out of necessity?

I think so, but only you can know for sure. It’s easy to add flash fiction to your daily writing routine. Try spending ten minutes a day writing a fifty-word story or try keeping a notebook of micro-flashes throughout the day. If you do, I think you’ll find your authorial self changing fast. I think you’ll experience the joy of inhabiting the uncommon space flash fiction creates: the endless transition, the beginningless start of constant beginnings.

For those who want to dig deeper into flash fiction, I am leading a workshop in March. It is not yet open for enrollment, but you can join the waiting list here.

Bio: Ella Peary is the pen name for an author, editor, creative writing mentor, and submission consultant. Over the past five years, she’s written hundreds of articles for Authors Publish, and she’s also served as a copywriter and copy editor for a wide range of organizations and individuals. She is the author of The Quick Start Guide to Flash Fiction. You can contact her at ellapeary@gmail.com.



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