Flash fiction can be soulful, dreamy, and poignant as well as pithy

BRATTLEBORO — As a board member of Write Action, I was of course grateful that the Commons published information about our annual Writing Contest. The article gave links to our site (www.writeaction.org) for those who might want to submit an entry, and shared other important details, including the theme (hope) and that the stories are to be no more 820 words long.

However, there was one small - but, to my mind, vital - correction that needs to be made.

The article started of with the line, “Think pithy: Flash fiction is the style for this year's Write Action writing contest.”

Merriam-Webster has this definition of pithy: “Using few words in a clever and effective way.” It gives the following quote from James Fallows in The Atlantic as one example of its use in a sentence: “Gore's prowess had been blurred by his performance in the Quayle debate and by his four preceding years in the Senate, where the prevailing style is indirect and woolly-swathed in layers of 'my distinguished colleague' and short on zingers and pithy remarks.”

Now, a great deal of flash fiction that is being written today is indeed just that - pithy.

However, some of it is soulful, dreamy, and poignant. As the judge for this year's contest, I can say that I have little interest in flash fiction stories that are primarily constructed to be pithy. If that's all the story delivers, it's falling far short of what fiction can do.

Flash fiction, at its best, can offer flashes of insight into other worlds, or other people, or other ways of being, not merely flashes of wittiness.

To get a sense of what I am talking about, readers can check out the stories we have listed as examples on our website. They include the mysterious and ghostly but ultimately joyous story “A Haunted House,” by Virginia Woolf, as well as the stream of consciousness of Fielding Dawson's “The Vertical Fields.”

The stories by Mark Twain and Terry Bison are indeed witty, but the careful reader will note that they are more than that.

If you have a few minutes, read some of our examples, and send us a story. We look forward to reading it. The deadline is Thursday, Sept. 25.

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