Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The News

Atypical Research by Shelly Rae Rich - pubbed in: Flash Fiction Online

Exposition... It's one of those necessary evils in writing fiction. The reader sometimes needs "the news" to understand what's going on. Are the characters in an undersea cave? That detail might be pertinent to the action of the story.

Backstory. If a character has a reaction to a certain smell as a result of a childhood incident, that might be good for a reader to know about. We do sometimes need the news.

However, in flash fiction there is little room for it. Unless your whole flash is somehow expository, if you have taken exposition to such a level that the flash can be said to be virtually about exposition itself, then it has little place.

Ultimately, if a flash has a strong narrative focus, we need strict focus on that narrative. Again, Hemingway's, A Very Short Story, is the best example of this I know. That tale is nothing but story, plot, it's a narrative from tip to tail with any exposition limited to a sentence or two to merely set a scene.

The story, Atypical Research, which served as the prompt for this little rant is comprised of so much exposition as to lose all focus for the reader. It's a nice piece of writing, to be sure, but I'm left with little idea of these characters or what's really going on. At the end, I have a narrator in a love affair with a beautiful and quirky woman. But, there's no real treatment of the emotions the narrator has, only some cursory statements about a research project which is no longer objective.

At the end of the day, I found this piece too unfocused to qualify as flash. It felt like a nice draft for a longer short story where all of this expostion could be developed into something living and breathing.

I give this story one 7-11 burrito, with a Big Gulp chaser.

Saturday, June 27, 2009



This one ended.

I read it and it ended and I was satisfied, but not wholly satisfied. I'd met with the printed words, and I found their punctuation interesting, though at first difficult. Unusual. I liked the movement from talk of the wife/girlfriend to then propositioning the therapist. I found that humorous and fresh. But, like the narrator, I was not wholly satisfied. Until I looked up to the title.

Somehow, I'd missed the title. I was looking for a flash by Kyle Minor; when I found it, I dove in without a thought to the title. What's the big deal with titles, I thought. Yet, finding my self not-wholly-satisfied after reading Kyle Minor's flash, I found a rush of delight when I took notice of the title.

Of course, I do have a bias against therapy. Few therapists seem bold enough to require anything of their clients and even fewer clients are willing to actively participate in their recovery. I digress.

Minor's flash does seem to have a movement to it. Dare we call it a narrative? A relationship is defined and perhaps dissolved - perhaps found useless, when we take in the title, a call to dump the therapist. At the end of the day, this flash has tight focus which reflects and refracts and is wholly satisfying.

I give this one two air conditioners and a glass of cool water on a hot day.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Great Review

Lydia Copeland in the Wigleaf Top 50 House!! « Sean Blog: It All Relates 2 Writing

I really dig Sean Lovelace's review of Lydia Copeland's addition to the Wigleaf Top 50. In particular, I like his additions to the definition of the form.

Read. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pete and Repeat

Tomlinson Saying the Ball Was Tipped by Kyle Minor elimae

Wigleaf Top 50 Selection

I love the use of repetition in Kyle Minor's (very) little flash. The haunt of an excuse which carries through each chapter of the narrative. I don't have a clear idea of why a "tipped" ball would make any difference. I don't know much about football.

But, I do know about pleading one's case and that plea gaining no traction as one's case goes down the tubes.

I know that Minor is known for writing longer fiction and this is the first thing of his I've ever read. I regretfully missed his reading at Powell's last winter. But, I'm pleased that he seems to be adept in the Flash format.

Great read and a worthy addition to any collection.



A Wigleaf Top 50 Selection

This is a good read. I like how Tania Hershman uses the convention of store hours to illustrate emotional (un)availability. At times I was wondering if she was trying to personify a store or other business.

Here, Hershman has picked her images and her conflict. Nothing else. She hammers these home and from that focus, the flash becomes more truthful and hopefully universal. I certainly related both to the narrator and to the person to whom the flash is aimed.

Now, why isn't this a prose poem? There's no narrative, there are no scenes and scant characters. Perhaps it's the narrator and the complexity of emotion she emits. There is a progression emotionally as well. We move from a limited openness to really no openness and a feeling of being trapped. Yet the narrator is still hopeful, or at least wishes to keep the imagined lover as an emotional hostage, ever longing and ever rebuffed.

So, please do check this one out. I give it 4.5 out of 5 Mt. Hood Strawberries.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lots of Things Going On

3:AM Magazine » Better Things

I found Andrea Kneeland's flash, Better Things, pretty much at random. I read it. There's a lot here.

People often talk about how there's "so much going on" in flash. How did you pack so much into such a small space? They often ask.

The beauty of flash is that there is so much going on in such a small space. But it's a contained space and there is great focus on a single thing from which emanates a million different things. Stefanie Freele's Sisters does this. In Freele's micro masterpiece, we have two sisters in two different places communicating over the telephone. Simple. Elegant. But there's so much tension that it nearly tears you apart.

Here we are shown a bunch of different things: bloody van, burrito workers, and a relationship possibly in trouble. There's the coworkers finances and the confusion they cause in a relationship which is given no other context for conflict. There's a lot going on here.

But none of it seems to go anywhere.

There is a lot to like, however. I think there are some neat characters here and the scenario is creative and interesting. I'm glad I read this and that I got to peek in on these people. But, I didn't get a flash moment. No one thing seemed to resonate, but there were a lot of little things lying around which could have been woven into something larger, or concentrated for a flash. Or perhaps those were stray twigs (see illustration, above.) I'm not really sure.

Again, please comment if you agree, disagree, or are curious about where to find a killer burrito in Portland.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Confessions in Narrative

SmokeLong Quarterly—Issue Twenty-Four—"I Use Commas like Ninja Stars" by Samuel Lee

So, this is one of the most popular stories at SmokeLong. Most clicked anyways. So, I decided to take a gander and write a review.

Lee tells the tale of being a 1st generation immigrant. The child of adult immigrants, the narrator grows up with English being taught to him in school and through language he becomes American. Acculturated. Assimilated. He rejects his parents' old world ways until the end when he is reunited with his mother over the grave of his father.

This flash seemed a bit uneven. I found it effective, but not entirely convincing. Lee seems drawn to turn this into a narrative, to give us some "arc." So, the son leaves and rejects the old ways. But he comes back and says, "look ma we talk same." Huh? Same? Isn't this the character who's all about change? Can't he remain changed, "talk different" and still love his mother?

I did enjoy the flash up until the point where it decided to go narrative. At that point, when the narrator goes to college, we lose the focus of the boy learning English and conflicting with his parents and soon we're treated to the tortured phrasing, "pawn their configurations for money." You mean be a writer? Write for money?

At that point, in the second-to-last graph, I find the author stretching. He's got something going, a real flash. Then he decides he needs the arc and there he starts
writing the story. The narrator gets righteous about his grammatical prowess and the author loses what's special about this piece.

So, while I did appreciate the confessional nature of the story, the emotional tug of watching a boy grow up through the language of his adopted homeland and the conflicts that brought at home. But, the flash needed to stay there, stay with that conflict and that interesting, complicated focus. That Flash.

Please take a look and comment back if you felt otherwise (or if you agreed) about this flash.