I’ve always relished a Sunday morning with the New York Times Magazine, but I’ll admit that while I flip through and read an article if I see one that interests me, it had always been about the big ole’ crossword in the back. Until recently (enough) when the Magazine underwent a massive redesign and up popped the “One-Page Magazine” feature in the very front. A fun little page, there’s trivia, humorous lists and comparisons, mini, mini articles, a riddle, and my favorite, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Summer Fiction Series.
I look forward to Sittenfeld’s stories every week. They’re poignant, funny, quirky and thought-provoking. And I’m finished reading them in under 30 seconds. Shorter than even normal flash fiction, the stories printed in the Summer Fiction Series are no more than one hundred words, oftentimes significantly less than that, yet they manage to evoke characters, feelings, mystery and resolution each and every time.
Some of them are wildly fantastical and others are completely mundane. Though flash fiction hardly requires the character development and careful plotting of a full-length novel, or even a short story, the effect can be equally powerful, and actually more difficult to evoke. All the elements of a good book need to be there, just radically condensed.
Here’s an example of one of Sittenfeld’s called THE FEMUR, which ran on July 1st of this year:
This one is an entirely self-contained situation, and it takes more than one reading (at least on my part) to really get the entire feel for the story.
Here’s another called THE MORTGAGE, which ran on May 20th in the Magazine:
Again, an story in and of itself, but like many of the really short flash fiction that I’ve seen, this could also be used as a writing exercise—a jumping off point. Whether you find yourself able to write effective flash fiction or not, there’s always a way to use it to your advantage beyond simple enjoyment.
Have you ever tried your hand at super short fiction? Care to try…now? Do you find it a helpful tool to write an extremely brief situation to use as the kernel for what might later become a novel?