So many words, such little space

sand

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of stories from online literary magazines like SmokeLong Quarterly, Word Riot, and Every Day Fiction. I read them to discover something, to redefine the familiar, to learn a little more about empathy by walking around in somebody else’s shoes. A well written story is a mirror in which I see humanity in a new or unexpected way. Something that makes me go “aww..” or “hmm!” or “that’s true too, isn’t it?”

All or many of the stories in these magazines are considered “flash fiction” or short short fiction, micro fiction, nano fiction, etc. While the definition of flash fiction varies, even among the specialists in the field, the general qualifier is that the writing must be less than 1,000, 750, 500, or even 100 words. As a relative newcomer to the genre of flash fiction, I have fallen totally head over heels in love with it. I love the possibilities laden in the limitations. Every word is a reminder that I am coming up closer and closer to the finish line, so I have to make every word count! Not every scene or single scene gets to be fully fleshed out, and that is the beauty of it. Flash fiction trusts the reader to reader to fill in the gaps, to realize the meaning of the text without the writer shoving it in their face.

As you can imagine, writing flash fiction involves a lot of careful chipping away, rebuilding, and chipping away and rebuilding. And I looove it. If the keyboard was my chisel, then…LibreOffice is my…stone? In this past week I’ve pumped out 7 short shorts ranging from 950 words to 50 words. Now that I just realized that I feel quite proud of myself! That’s another perk of flash fiction: if you have 30 minutes available, then you can write a 50 word story, and there, you just wrote a whole dang story! In 30 minutes! To see for yourself that it can be done, check out 50 Word Stories. The most recent story, Autumn Memory, will make your heart heave, I guarantee.

I want to wrap up by talking about vignettes, the seed of my inspiration coming from a definition of “vignette” that I found from Vine Leaves Literary Journal:

“”Vignette” is a word that originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” It’s a snapshot in words. It differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead, the vignette focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. It’s descriptive, excellent for character or theme exploration and wordplay. Through a vignette, you create an atmosphere.”

I love the image of a vine leaf. Such a small surface–what to write on it, to leave off? I ask myself questions like that about how to use this blog. My goal is not to take on the world in a single post. I can’t. Every post is essentially a vignette, focusing on a single story or subject, not trying to be anything larger than that. You’d think this would be a simple task. I still don’t know an easy way to chisel through stone.

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