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What Is Flash Fiction?
By Chris Boss, UR Writing Consultant
(printable version here)

Flash fiction (also called micro fiction, sudden fiction, or short short stories) refers to fiction stories of around 700 words or less. The qualifying standard for flash fiction varies among organizations, with some setting the maximum word count as little as 150 and others raising it to 1000, but the exact word count matters little. The idea is that flash fiction, being so short, encompasses literary theory quite differently from traditional short stories given that the physical boundaries for flash fiction preclude otherwise available options. This is not to say flash fiction subscribes to a rigid formula - just the opposite. Forms of flash fiction tend to vary markedly, and resemble anything from prose poetry to grocery shopping lists. "Part of the fun of writing [flash fiction] is the sense of slipping through the seams," says Sudden Fiction author Stuart Dybek. "Within the constraint of of their small boundaries the writer discovers great freedom."

Some authors dedicate their careers to flash fiction, but usually they view it as a deviation from routine. Writers often find appeal in flash fiction precisely because of its length, which allows for the relatively quick creation of stories. Most writers spend weeks, months, or (for novelists) even years producing their work, so the prospect of creating a story from start to finish within days can provide an enjoyable reprieve. Some writers may treat the opportunity as a chance to scribble ideas and call it polished fiction, but in reality the amount of effort required per word for flash fiction tends to exceed the amount in longer fiction, simply because the margin for imperfection is slim.

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