My favourite example of flash fiction is a famous story told by Ernest Hemingway. This brilliant author uses only six words.
“For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
This micro-story contains the same elements as long epic novels; however, in flash fiction the narrative is distilled to the extreme. Short. Brief. Concise. Think of it as a snap shot, one moment in time. On the other hand, it could be a culmination of many events refined into a single significant thought. It can be poetic, but not necessarily.
As much as I love Hemingway’s quote, I’m sure some will question if these six words qualify as flash fiction. There are five key elements to creating flash fiction and Hemingways’ quote has all of them.
- A beginning, middle, and end.
The question is whether the story begins with the shoe sale or with the initial shoe purchase?
- Plot, the action of the story.
First the shoes were purchased, they were never worn and, lastly, they are sold. The plot, though, is set in reverse chronological order.
The main character in this story is the baby.
- An allusive reference, a stark image, one that doesn’t require many words to explain.
Baby shoes! This image reduces, condenses, and creates a universal emotion.
Hemingway uses one word to describe the setting: sale. One word, but it infers so much. For one reader it might be a garage sale. For another it’s a Mom-to-Mom sale. For the writer of flash fiction, it is all about the one word.
As a writer, flash fiction is an opportunity to purify a story to its core. It can be an exercise to flex writing muscles, to train the mind to focus on reducing, condensing, and becoming concise to eliminate the fat in a story.
Do you have a favorite flash fiction story? What elements make it great?