Flash fiction is a literary form that is characterized by its incredibly short length. Sometimes as long as a page, but frequently no longer than a single paragraph it is something like a prose version of a haiku.
Writing, any writing, is about getting to the point as quickly as you can and creating an effect in the reader.
While there are writers who write this type of fiction exclusively, it can be very helpful for novelists as well. It is useful to practice writing dialogue, plot, description and any number of other things.
But it can also be very helpful when you’ve lost your way and don’t know what you are doing any more.
…And Then he stopped to go to the bathroom…
We may begin to add things that aren’t really pertinent.
“Then he stopped to go to the bathroom”…or “It was a lovely spring day…and, yada, yada, yada the dishes in the sink were dirty”…but, that really doesn’t matter…because it doesn’t add anything to the love story.
The World In A Droplet of water
Flash fiction is a great way to clear out the cobwebs every now and then.
You can take a story you are working on and boil it down to its most essential elements to regain focus.
Let’s take a look at this very fine example from Flash-Fiction-World.com.
Snapshots of a Crash
11:00 I close my eyes. 10:55 Lights are coming right at us. 10:50 I put my hand on Kareem´s face, he bites my palm fiercely, and loses grip of the wheel. 10:30 His accusations and my explanations become an entangled sound mass, screaming and crying. 10:00 Kareem´s silence engulfs us. 9:55 The car speeds through traffic. 9:50 Kareem almost runs over an elderly couple. I turn my head and keep looking at them until they disappear into the distance. 9:30 My voice sounds alien, like talking under water, while I confess: “Yes, I slept with Carlos”.
This story, by Melanie Taylor Herrera, could just as well have taken 300 pages to tell but here it is in its most elemental form.
11:00 I Close My Eyes
This is an innocuous statement enough, nothing really special about it.
However, the power of the piece comes from adding sentence upon sentence…a compounding effect.
10:55 Lights are coming right at us
Gradually, this piece of flash fiction unfolds for the reader like a crash victim’s life flashing before his eyes until we finally see the cause that has set this chain of events in motion, and it hits us like an oncoming car.
Do you see how this exercise might be helpful in refocusing your thoughts when you have lost your way?
You name it.
So when you are stuck with a piece of writing, take a page from the flash fiction playbook. Try boiling it down to what you are really trying to say. Then gradually add things to develop the story you want to tell.