I was recently contemplating writing an on line review for an e-book I had read, and was recalling some of the comments of the other readers, many which contained the opinion that the book was too short. I, too, felt the book was too short, but felt it for seemingly different reasons than some of the other readers (though I admit, I only read perhaps ten reviews).
Many were wishing there was more material to read; had enjoyed the five chapter book so much that they were saddened by its brevity. I felt that the book should have been longer (among other things) because there might have been more development and opportunity to explore some of the basic ideas presented.
That got me to wondering if perhaps the author was encouraged (ie, felt forced) to shorten his musings by kind-meaning acquaintances or actual editors/publishers. Now, I know this book was not properly edited, as there were actual misspellings and a few sentences which looked as though they had been partially deleted but not re-written. But, I did give it a passing thought.
This, naturally, led me to thinking about how we edit our lives in a daily fashion, how we demand instant gratification, and can sum up our days in Facebook via a series of check ins and updates. It also got me to thinking about “flash fiction”, and, lucky for you, it was enough to get me out of bed to do some writing on the topic.
I was once looking at an on-line “writing” contest, which involved an award for the submission of the best flash fiction story. I didn’t know what “flash fiction” was, and, even after reading the rules for submission, still found myself unsure as to what I had read.
The official meaning of “flash fiction” is loosely defined, and variable. It is basically an extremely short story, written in 1500 (or 1000) (or 75) words or less. I believe there are some actual criteria used to define ff (and yes, I’m being snarky by reducing it to two letters), involving use of plot, characters, conflict/resolution, etc. Now, being the overly wordy gal that I am, I was shocked and dismayed at the discovery of this genre of writing, and immediately knew that a ff writing contest was not for me.
I have a lot that I want to say here, and I will preface it by saying that I had to force myself to do some ff research and reading, in order to give it a fair chance. So, I read a few stories. Five, to be exact. Yes, I was skeptical, but, as a voracious reader who is also patient and hopeful, I read. I’ve determined that they are not my thing, and honestly, a waste of my time. Being unemployed, I have a lot of time. So that probably says something.
I am not going to be critical of the talents employed by ff writers. I cannot fault the writing (proper English was actually utilized in all of them), I cannot fault the brevity (it’s ff, ffs), I cannot fault the writers for unfinished thoughts or incomplete plots. The stories actually did follow most of the rules. What I am going to be critical of is the fact that this genre of writing actually exists.
This is all personal opinion, remember. I’ve already admitted that this is not for me. But I admit that I am a little sad that it is for some. It boggles my mind to think that there is an audience out there, gagging for stories that are short enough to be read in the duration of their smoke break (yes, they are referred to, in China, as “smoke-long” stories). I mean, there are actually people out there thinking, “arrrrgggghhhh… I really need to read something right now and be finished with it in less than five minutes!!! I need it bad!!!” ???
In this horrible modern world of ours, where “lol,” “smh,” and “afaik” are all acceptable forms of communication, I suppose I should not be surprised. In this world where many have never experienced the taste of percolated coffee, or waited for a letter in the mail, or have grown up learning that “kat” is an acceptable attempt at spelling the word “cat,” I should not be surprised. In this world where Facebook updates are more important than actually doing work or being productive or being quietly contemplative, I know. I shouldn’t be surprised.
I, a person who is writing a blog, might even be a little hypocritical in expressing these opinions. You, a reader of my blog, may be reading here because it fits your personal requirement of reading something in under five minutes. Heck, maybe my blog posts are a form of ff, apart from the fact that I rarely fit the word count requirement (even for blogs), I wander off topic, I use extra long and nonsensical run-on sentences, and there usually isn’t a clear beginning, middle, and end to my stories. Well, maybe they’re not quite ff.
Anyway, I guess that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. After all, I’ve just surpassed the 800 word count, and I’m going to lose you soon. If you happen to enjoy flash fiction, or are interested in investigating, here is a website: http://www.flashfictiononline.com/.
If you are only in search of something to razzle your brain (or not) for the duration of five minutes, let me offer some other alternatives:
- Read some of my other posts. Self-promoting, I know.
- Read some poems. http://oldpoetry.com/ (warning: some are way longer than 1000 words)
- Watch five dumb television commercials. Hey, they each tell a story in under a minute, and you don’t even have to read!
- Read some of the Bible/Koran/Sacred Texts/something on Confucianism/Aesop’s Fables. Some of those stories are really short!
- Contemplate and mentally list five things for which/whom you are truly grateful.
- Go to a dictionary (I don’t even care if it’s on line!) and learn one new word.
In the end, if you really need something uber-short to read, read this sentence:
Good things take time.