Flash Fiction: Get in, Get Out

With the prevalence of smartphones and tablets today, we have instant access to literary fiction anywhere in the world. But, ah, where do we find the time to read?

It’s no secret or surprise our minds are being pulled in a thousand directions at all times. Who’s posting what, what’s trending where, which what is worth our attention, how we can experience and contribute to it all. There is always something new for us to participate in.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I do know that’s the way of our world today. And I know it oftentimes leaves little opportunity for many of us to read for pleasure.

If you find yourself bemoaning this fact as I do, if you wish you had more time to read more stories, then Flash Fiction is the genre for you.

Flash Fiction isn’t new, but it’s perfect for these hyperactive days of the 21st century. The genre is defined as a short story of 1,000 words or less. It’s a work of extreme brevity, a complete story told in fewer words than a New Yorker or Cosmo feature article. Authors such as Aesop, Hemingway, Oates, Kincaid, Kafka, Bierce, Whitman, Hurston, Maugham, Vonnegut, Clarke, Chekhov, and Chopin have all crafted stories with meaningful depth and insight you can read in the time it takes you to wait for your order in the drive thru.

One thousand words. You can probably read that in five minutes. But will you get the same satisfaction from so few words as you do reading traditional short stories and novels?

When it’s done right, absolutely.

The great authors of Flash Fiction use this allotted word count to create stories that stay with you. Think of their stories as short moments in time, crisp meditations, that explore and reflect upon the same large ideas as any good fictional work: love, death, friendship, betrayal, loneliness, companionship, punishment, redemption; the same inner and outer conflicts that have always troubled our favorite heroes and villains; the same powerful endings that leave us celebrating or saddened, understanding or angry. The great authors of Flash Fiction pull you into their stories as any novelist might, but they release you much sooner.

When you read great Flash Fiction, you can get in, get out, and be reward with literary satisfaction before you finish your first cup of coffee in the morning.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read around fifty Flash stories. Some were okay, some were awful, but there were some that I still think about. The good ones do what good stories of any length do: they entertain and they say something big about life.

If Flash Fiction seems to you like the perfect way to get your reading fix, check out these great examples of the genre. You can finish each one in five or six minutes and a few may only take you two or three. Hopefully, they will resonate with you as they did with me.

And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!

Seven Great Flash Fiction Stories

How to Confront the Sphinx Haunting Your Garden,” by Alexei Collier

Death Comes for the Microbot,” by Aimee Picchi

The Wife on Ambien,” by Ed Park

Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid

Taylor Swift,” by Hugh Behm-Steinberg

The Huntress,” by Sofia Samatar

Where are You?” by Joyce Carol Oates

If you liked these suggestions, read my post Weird Short Stories to Read Next.

Happy reading!


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