Tue 18 Feb 2014
by Meg Pokrass
Author’s subtitle: Small Yet Mighty
In my opinion, flash is perhaps the most honest form of expression, in that it does not need to impose artificial structure onto experience.
The term “flash fiction” may imply that a flash piece just comes to a writer, like a bolt of lightning, some kind of proverbial inspiration—and a writer burps it out. One of the reasons I am not fond of the term “flash fiction” is because of this perception. Writing flash fiction is the craft of creating miniature worlds.
Perhaps, when I first discovered flash fiction, I loved it so much that it intimidated me. For some reason, I never believed I could write flash, I was a poet. But, in 2008, I took my first plunge at flash fiction— taking my narrative poems and reworking them into stories. I wrote like a fiend. I could not stop. Something had freed me.
When I write flash, I don’t begin with a plot, or a concept. Just a few images that are stuck in my brain, they don’t have to seem directly “meaningful”. I will figure out what a story means only many drafts later. The story begins to tell itself. A writer just has to start anywhere.
I think we, as writers, need to learn to get out of the way, and let the stories come out by freeing our unconscious thoughts from critical observation. This is true in many art forms, not just writing.
A final draft should contain not one unessential word. Creating a genuine sense of emotional urgency in a very short space is an acquired skill at the art of omission. Beautiful, dense prose, which fulfills itself and brings a mysterious, sudden satisfaction to the reader—like great songs—are deceptively small in word count, yet strangely mighty.
I see life as many moments, hours, days and years strung together. I do not believe that life has a “narrative arc”—or if it does, it does not become clear until a person dies—and even then, the narrative arc of a person’s life is entirely subjective.
In my opinion, flash is perhaps the most honest form of expression, in that it does not need to impose artificial structure onto experience. The best flash tells an emotional story through sensory detail, with no frippery. I suspect this is why this unique form has such a direct and demanding emotional tug.
Meg Pokrass is the author of the forthcoming novella-in-flash “Here, Where We Live” (Rose Metal Press, 2014) and “Damn Sure Right” (Press 53) a collection of flash fiction. Meg’s stories have been widely anthologized, most recently in the forthcoming W.W. Norton Anthology of Flash Fiction International (Shapard, Thomas and Merrill, 2015). Her flash-fiction and micro-fiction stories and humor pieces have appeared in around a hundred and fifty online and print publications, including McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, Mississippi Review, MidAmerican Review, NANO Fiction, 100-Word Story, The Literarian, storySouth, Failbetter, Gigantic. Meg’s humor pieces, co-written with author Bobbie Ann Mason, have recently been showcased in TNB Original Fiction. Her flash fiction has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, been showcased for Dzanc Books’ Short Story Month and nominated for Best of the Web, Best of the Net, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 [Very] Short Fictions. She currently serves as an associate editor for Frederick Barthelme’s New World Writing. Learn more about her at megpokrass.com.