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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What is Flash-Fiction? by Annetta Ribken (@netta50)

Today I have a super special treat for you, not only is my guest the most amazing editor (award-winning in fact!) She's also a super fabulous author too! Annetta Ribken is celebrating the re-release of her anthology of flash fiction, Not Nice and Other Understatements, which is available now. So without further ado... here's Annetta!

I want to thank Erin for allowing me to pontificate on the subject of flash fiction in celebration of the re-release of my first collection of flash fiction, Not Nice and Other Understatements. The first edition was published in 2010, but I wanted to update the cover and polish the stories within one last time. I also had material I wanted to include in the original publication but was unable at the time. Patti Larsen, an award-winning author, consented to write a new, updated introduction. I'm really happy with the new shiny.

A couple of years ago an English teacher asked me, "What is flash fiction?"

I've decided to try and answer that question.

Thanks again for having me, Erin! *MUAHS*

What The Hell Is Flash Fiction?

I'm asked this question a lot. Even though flash fiction has been around since the dawn of time (think "Aesop's Fables", for instance) most people don't really recognize flash.
It doesn't help that the definition changes depending on the person to whom you speak. Some define flash as a complete story under 3,000 words; this figure can drop all the way down to six words. Think that's impossible? Think of this six word flash from Ernest Hemingway:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

The thing about flash fiction is often it's more about what you don't say as it is what you do say. For example, the negative space in art can tell the viewer more than the space that's filled in. Flash fiction encourages an interaction with the reader much different than in longer fiction. More intimate, in many ways. The writer depends on the reader to have the imagination, the courage, and the desire to look into the negative space and see what the writer intends. The reader, on the other hand, depends and trusts the writer to provide enough to do that while allowing the reader to extrapolate on their own.

I cut my writing teeth on flash fiction—it's how I started out. I love the challenge. There are strict parameters, but you have the universe at your fingertips if you can just find the way. It's like putting together a puzzle, trying to figure out what piece goes where until you have a cohesive whole.
There is no room to hide. In writing flash fiction, every single word counts. It has to serve a purpose or it has no place in the story. You have to hone your story to a fine, cutting edge.

My first flash fiction collection, Not Nice and Other Understatements, is comprised of forty-eight pieces of flash fiction in various lengths. Some are what is known in certain flash circles as "drabbles", or pieces of exactly 100 words in length. Some are shorter than that—but always with STORY as the bottom line. A variety of genres are represented, from fantasy to romance to horror to suspense to memoir. I wrote the majority of them at the beginning of my writer's journey. It was therapeutic, cathartic, and educational. I think every writer should take a turn or two at crafting flash—it's the perfect training ground.

A professional editor of over one hundred novels, Annetta Ribken has also been writing since a tender young age, when letters were chiseled on stone tablets. A precocious student, Annetta earned her Ph.D in the School of Hard Knocks, with honors, in the early Age of Disco. She lives and works just outside of St. Louis with her evil feline overlord, a rescued shelter cat named Athena. Sign up for her newsletter for updates on the havoc she's wreaking.

Not Nice and Other Understatements is now available    Look for Still Not Nice or the Strange Planet Inside My Head coming November 2014.

Want to find out more about Annetta Ribken?  

Twitter: @netta50

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The Legal Bit

All characters have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone baring the same name. They are not inspired by an individual known or unknown by the author and all incidents are pure invention.

The articles, excerpts, and other written work published under the pseudonym Erin Cawood are copyright protected by the author. Guest articles are published by arrangement and also copyright protected by the guest author.

Images of Erin Cawood are provided by Paul Miguel Photography.

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