The Skinny


The genre of “flashes” (short-short stories) is different from “vignettes” in that flashes are required to have the elements of conventional fiction: plot, characters, tension and, most imperative, a beginning, middle and end. (Although let us keep in mind what Federico Fellini said: “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life.”)

There are differing views as to how flashes ought to be written. The most common method is to first write the story with no space restraints, and then methodically remove any gratuitous or inessential words. But how about the opposite: write a story using merely one or two sentences, adding the necessary padding afterwards? (If “padding” can be used in skinny fiction.) The point is to utilize the white space: have the blank parts of the page expose the story too. I’ve read too many flashes that appear to be crammed into the allotted margins, obviously pared down from a much longer original.

One of the best current venues for this kind of microfiction is the biannual literary journal Flash, from Chester University in the UK. The latest issue (v. 5, #2, October 212) contains three outstanding stories: “Sex Ed” by Charles Haverty (which has not just a twist ending—often a central component of microfiction—but a downright beatific twist); “The New Year” by Pamela Painter (which depicts, rather unconventionally, the one-sided anguish that follows a broken relationship); and “Beaky” by Paul Blaney (which displays compassion for unfortunate souls, primarily between the lines, as does his “Not Nothing,” which appeared in the previous issue of Flash). Flashes are sudden and compelling vehicles for sudden, compelling insights. Flash magazine is worth tracking down, for its high-quality examples of such work.

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Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits.


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