Monday, 3 December 2018

Flash fiction by Helen Chambers

I’ve been experimenting with writing flash fiction this year. Something of an umbrella term, Flash Fiction (written by ‘flashers’, guaranteed to raise a snigger) generally refers to a piece no longer than 1000 words; typically, shorter. Many competitions and online journals ask for pieces around the 250/300-word mark. Micro-fiction usually means shorter still – anything from Hemingway’s infamous and powerful 6-word story: For sale: baby shoes, never worn – to 100 word drabbles.
Flash, in all its varied forms, can be found all over the internet in a multitude of online journals and competitions. I follow renowned expert Meg Pokrass (here for her website) on Facebook, where she often posts her stories or fiction prompts (often comprising an unusual theme and a random string of words, sending my brain off in unexpected directions). I also recommend Nancy Stohlman, Spelk and maybe considering subscribing to International Flash Fiction as good starting points. Find which stories you like best, and then look at the writer’s bio to see other online journals to try.
Don’t be fooled into thinking short equals easy. A good flash needs to tell a story, not simply describe. Often with flash, what is ‘not quite said’ tells the reader more than is in the story – good subtext is vital. Like a poem, a flash benefits from more than one reading, and is great fun to write. Every word has to work, to count; the writer still needs to show, not tell.
Here is my most recent piece at Meniscus, (scroll to p28 – but why not read the others while you’re there?!) an Australian journal. I first wrote this whilst doing an online course with Meg Pokrass which took me out of my comfort zone, challenged my perceptions and encouraged me to think differently about the role inanimate objects could play in a story… Over to you – Happy flashing!