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Breadcrumbs From The Void by Alex Schumacher # 13: Being an Exhibitionist with Flash Ficiton

Alex Schumacher

Being an Exhibitionist with Flash Ficiton

Hump Day party people raise your glasses, I am about to pour you another round of hundred proof Bread Crumbs from the Void! This one is going to be a tad stronger and a lot stiffer so brace yourselves, you little chicken shits. If I were one to beat around the bush or candy coat the realities that you as an aspiring writer will face I would be doing you a great disservice. It would behoove you to listen to and retain the knowledge I impart. Well, about half of what I say anyway. Maybe a quarter. This is tough love. Remember, it hurts you a lot more than it hurts me.

In keeping with the theme of this week’s entry, I wanted to bypass my typical berating intro. Rejoice dear readers and save those salty tears of defeat for something that truly deserves them, such as your ever-increasing assemblage of rejection letters. As I am covering flash fiction my goal is to instill in all of you the necessity for brevity. Writers tend to go off the rails time and time again with overly wrought descriptions of scenes and characters. For some misguided reason they believe this adds color and depth. Well, guess-the-fuck what? It does not.

That assessment goes quadruple for flash fiction.



Flash fiction goes by many names. According to that most trusted of online resources, Wikipedia, “many terms for this category exist, including micro fiction, micro narrative, micro-story, postcard fiction, short short, short short story, and sudden fiction, though distinctions are sometimes drawn among some of these terms. For example, sometimes 1,000 words is considered the cutoff between “flash fiction” and the slightly longer short story “sudden fiction”. The terms “micro fiction” and “micro narrative” are sometimes defined as below 300 words, and include these diminutive subcategories: the drabble (100 words), nanofiction (55 words), and Twitter fiction, aka twitterature (140 characters, or about 23 words).

Confused? Let me make this easy for the more feeble-minded of the Five 2 One readership. Flash fiction is generally any work of 1,000 words or less. Generally. Guidelines can vary from publication to publication, but that is a decent rule of thumb.


Trim the Fat

Just like their girthy big brothers and sisters, flash fiction must contain a complete narrative. An apparent and concise beginning, middle, and end are integral. Do not, I repeat do not present your audience with a literary dingleberry. A literary dingleberry is a piece of shit which should have been part of the whole and only serves to irritate and mystify. In other words, refrain from presenting only a fragment of a story. The shorter form is not an excuse to omit sections simply to focus on the main event.

Far from it, in fact.

The amount of room you have to concoct your literary poison can only contain the most poignant, thought-provoking, or heady ingredients. Each line, each fucking predicate should have a specific purpose. There is no space in the party van for the expendable or superfluous. Flash fiction is truncated and precise. It is exact and hard-hitting. It is not simplistic. Buck any of this advice and your piece will suffocate before you manage to cut it from its embryonic sack. If it does not affect the end result or the outcome, amputate the parasitic son of a bitch.


No Time for Foreplay

Kurt Vonnegut was a god-damn American treasure. He also gave killer advice on writing. One nugget of wisdom Mr. Vonnegut offered up which I believe is applicable for flash fiction is as follows: “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”

Maintaining a rapt audience is key. Attempting to draw out the money shot in some futile effort to build intrigue will absolutely kill the energy of your flash fiction piece. When you are only working with 500-700 words, there is no time to preheat the oven or arouse your unsuspecting victims. Let the nipple clamps and anal beads sit this round out. Drop your readers dead center in a sequence already in motion, pointing them directly at the finish line. Plot twists are the salmonella of short fiction. Others may disagree, but they are fucking nitwits.

I am certainly not suggesting that a good ‘ole surprise ending or a resolution out of left field is unwelcome. What I am stating is that plot twists, like one of their biggest purveyors M. Night Shyamalan, are dull and unimaginative. If your flash fiction needs to employ such a tired ass device then you failed to do your job as a decent storyteller. Or a decent human.


This Time it’s Personal

Short-short form storytelling is not meant for dense worlds and a rogue’s gallery of characters. It is, on the other hand, a perfect vehicle for sharing a single incident which would delight audiences, but in no way would translate to a longer narrative such as a novel, screenplay, etc. For instance, a phenomenal piece of bite-size fiction could be based on the time when your hooker OD’ed on the heroin you were both enjoying and you somehow had to scramble for a way to dispose of the body before your hour at the motel expired. Oh, what folly!

Or what about the time you were on the way to Granny’s burial service when the hearse took a bad hop, causing the casket to be jettisoned and street luge for a half mile or so? What dark levity!

These pocket pieces are perfect opportunities to mine the sordid battlefield of your past and air some anecdotes for catharsis or commiseration with others. After all, writing is about connecting with others and flash fiction should still have its sights set on the one other person who feels your pain. If more have suffered through similar ordeals, all the better!

Remember, succinctness and compactness is key with flash fiction. Boil the story you are telling down to its essence. Do not overcrowd or overcomplicate the plot. Focus on one event and the few individuals said incident involves and/or affects the greatest. And for Christ’s sake, pay extra attention to pacing and well-written dialogue.

Now: On your mark, get set, flash fiction, motherfuckers!

If you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, or declarations of lust.

Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks, when the secrets of the practices and rituals for the writing process will be unearthed and revealed. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.


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Alex Schumacher has toiled away in the relative obscurity of minimum-wage jobs and underground comics longer than he cares to admit. Currently he produces the weekly feature Decades of (in)Experience for Antix Press, Bread Crumbs from the Void and The Fucking Funnies for Five 2 One Magazine, and Mr. Butterchips for Drunk Monkeys. Stalk him at http://alexschumacherart.com/.

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