I teach a course in Flash Fiction, and have come to appreciate the kind of skill required for brevity of narrative and surprise/conflict. Over the years I have seen stories just over a paragraph to four pages that capture moments or even large swaths of time and the discoveries that happen to people in the midst of their lives.
Post-Civil War writer Kate Chopin’s page/plus “The Story of an Hour,” about a woman’s startling realization about marriage and identity, created controversy in its time and is continually included in literature anthologies (I use it in my Intro to Lit class). We forget (or, if we haven’t read them directly, never realized) that Aesop’s Fables were mostly a generous-paragraph long to a couple of pages, yet they continue to capture the virtues and weaknesses of human nature through the mini-dramas of the animal kingdom.
The greatest challenge in any literary narrative lay in achieving closure in compact forms and this is enjoying a burgeoning readership in literary journals and anthologies. In the most recent issue of Book/Mark I reviewed The Best Small Fictions of 2015, (Queens Ferry Press) and it proved to be an edifying and delightful reading experience. It is also one of several tomes being released that celebrate the “short-short” story, a great training ground for any writer, poet, novelist, nonfiction, or avid blogger, who sees myriad mini-narratives emerging from social media and the collage of flash dramas that we come to share because we suddenly can.
WRITING PROMPT–Write your own fable!
Mindy Kronenberg is the publisher of Book/Mark Review, which publishes reviews of books by independent and university presses, and a teacher of flash fiction.