In Praise Of Flash Fiction, Sort Of
I don’t care for flash fiction most of the time. The shorter the story, the harder it is to do world-building.
But that’s one of the reasons why from time to time, I try my hand at flash fiction. Flash fiction requires you to imply a lot of your world-building, to find the key details that may not directly spell out the history and politics of your world but do at least convey something of the core vibe of the fictional setting in question.
Writing a story of less than fifteen hundred words, forces a writer to identify what the core idea of the story is and what’s at the heart of what you want to convey to the reader. To put it simply, it’s very good practice. I may not ever be the best flash fiction author in the world but I’ll make use of the limitations of flash fiction to hone my work.
I think it’s also why I hear from time to time that the best form for science fiction is the novella, not the short story. The novella gives the author more time, more room to develop a setting and for that setting to have its interactions with plot and character. I also suspect that involved, intricate worldbuilding is behind fantasy’s penchant for multi-book series of epic novels.
Speculative fiction is the genre of ideas. The idea is the thing. And an immersive setting allows for an idea or a set of ideas to work their way through everything, the plot, the characters, it enables a branching interlocking network of ideas to be developed and interact with one another, an alternate world with an alternate perspective to look upon our own reality. Is the way we’ve been doing things all the time the only way? Are there better ways to do things? Worse ways? What would be some of the circumstances if society functioned differently?
Any tool that helps you to explore and develop those ideas better is worthwhile to the emerging speculative fiction author and so I wholeheartedly advocate the occasional foray into writing flash fiction even if the stories produced aren’t one’s best work.
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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel, I Was A Teenage Air Pirate.