Wednesday, March 08, 2006

JC: Flash Fiction

Have you heard of it? Some people are calling it Sudden Fiction, or short-short stories.

Contrary to rumors circulating on the Internet, flash fiction is not a market study of the shelf-life of Jack Cavanaugh’s books. And despite what you read on Alton Gansky's blog, short-short stories have nothing to do with what an author wears when he writes.

Flash fiction is the rebirth of a unique genre of story. It is a story that is told in less than two thousand words, and usually under one thousand words, sometimes as short as one hundred and fifty words. For some writers of flash fiction, the idea is to tell a story and the reader doesn’t have to turn a page.

Impossible you say?

Don’t be so hasty. I’ve tried my hand at short-short fiction in several different genres. Tell me what you think—

Bang! Bang! Whodunnit? Ned.
(4 words)

I hate him! He’s cute, but I still hate him! Those eyes! I think I’m in love. And they lived happily ever after.
(23 words)

Gotcha! No, you didn’t! Gotcha now! No, you didn’t! Ha! Tables turned! Now I got you! No you didn…Ahhhhhh! You got me! And once again, the world is saved from the brink of destruction.
(34 words)

Wagons clattered. Horses charged. Swords clashed. Blood flowed. Damaged limbs were sawed off. Millions die, more from disease than battle. Ah, the good ol’ days.
(25 words)

Save Tara. Steal Ashley from Melanie. Slap Sue Ellen. Save Tara. Marry men for money. Deliver baby. Save Tara. Speak to Rhett about his swearing.
(25 words)

Got the idea? If you think you do, you’ve got it all wrong.

Brevity is only one dynamic of the short-short story. Quality flash fiction delivers a punch. It makes you feel something, whether humorous or sad. It stops time. It starts you thinking.

It is a flash of illumination. It provides an insight that other writers struggle for pages to make clear. It creates a mood that resonates within the human heart.

Among those who have tried their hand at short-short fiction, include—John Updike, Raymond Carver, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ernest Hemingway.
I wish I could illustrate flash fiction by sharing some of the great short fiction I’ve been reading, but copyright prevents it. So, we’ll have to settle for a lesser light.

Here’s my attempt at flash fiction. I wanted to see if I could write a story in 150 words or less—

“Dispensing Justice”

A coin is shoved into a slot. The legal system lurches into motion. Lawyers
light up. Witnesses whirr. News presses hum. Once started, there’s no stopping
The jury sits. The judge enters.
“Madam foreman, have you reached a
“We have.”
The foreman hands the verdict to the bailiff who
hands it to the judge.
The judge reads the verdict in silence. He allows
himself the smallest of smiles.
“You will make history,” he confessed to me
last night in his chambers. “Your case is unprecedented.”
Said he’d
researched it himself.
Jangling change in his pocket, he said, “Never
before, in the annals of American jurisprudence has a judge declared a man
guilty for a murder he himself committed.”
In the courtroom, the judge hands
the verdict to the bailiff who hands it to the foreman.
I stand accused.
The foreman reads the verdict aloud, dispensing justice.
(148 words)

Now it’s your turn. Can you tell a story, capture a moment or a mood in 150 words or less? Post your stories in the comments section for all of us to enjoy.

Jack Cavanaugh, the author of more than twenty novels, including Storm w/Bill Bright (Howard Books) and the supernatural thriller, Death Watch (Zondervan).
Check out Jack Cavanaugh's titles


At 10:47 AM, Blogger Stuart said...

Ok, this is pretty bad, but maybe it will get the ball rolling. :)

Rescue - 137 words

Maimed leg. Leaking life. Dying hatchling. All drive him on.

Howling cries, a beacon of hope, guide him toward rescue. Through snaring branches, and churning ash, down the slope he runs, clinging to the weakening form in his arms.

The searchers appear through the haze. Great thorned beasts pull at their traces, nostrils flared at the scent of blood. Shouts and confusion fill the air as the rescuer charges forward, his burden lightened.

The sharp crack of a whipped tail stills the chaos. The commander steps forward. “What has happened here?”

Wearily, the rescuer recounts his tail of vile beast slain, vanquished warrior and the chance rescue by one unworthy. The hatchling, one leg less, once more within the care of protectors.

The rescuer sighs. Fear melts to relief. His mission failed, but life the hatchling saved.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Angela said...

Okay, Jack--the day is young and I'm up for it.

Pain. Push. Screaming agony, then . . . release.
A miracle. A bloody, bawling wonder that moves and breathes.
Clean it up. Comfort. Nurture. Clothe.
And pray.
Teach, discipline, love, and pray again.
Train, dream, love.
At a crisis moment, labor in prayer, wondering if God truly knows best.
But He does. He is faithful.
Later, with heart in throat, send this precious cargo to
the detached professional who will teach, train, and discipline.
And, I hope, love as I love.
Finally, after I count from one to twelve,
The child arrives back home, polished, mature, beautiful in the world’s eyes and mine.
My baby . . . my book.

Tee hee. 111 words.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Patricia Hickman said...

She turned too soon. Fell, plummeted actually. The wind and sky rushing away. Can't think. Did I kiss mother good-bye? What is the song in my head? Why is the music so loud? Crash. The ground is hard. No jarring. Someone hurry and put me back together! Everything is erupting. The trees were happy and now they are harsh and frowning down. Why did I have to slip off that leaf? The short life of a caterpillar. If only I had gotten my wings. The end.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope. Life.
Searing pain. Pounding pain.
Nails ripping the bed sheet. Blood poring forth. Push. PUSH.
Relief. A cry.
My son.

(20 words)

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Catherine West said...

Sterile room. Stifling, can hardly breathe. Life slipping away. Silent, save for intermittent sobs.
Death approaches, too slowly.
Time ticks by.
Although expected, it now comes and goes without warning.
She is gone.
The one who bore me.
Taught me.
Nurtured and cared for me.
And Loved me enough to let me go.
No sound now; shock, sorrow, relief...numbness.
Have to move.
Leave the room. Life goes on.
But how?
Through Christ, who strengthens me.
Without Him, I am nothing.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When she looked, he was gone. The towering steel jutting into the night sky groaned in the wind. The sound traveled down the seven-inch-thick cables from the heights above and sung its atonal song to her; it was a love song, a wicked lullaby.

The water below flowed into the ocean a thousand miles away.

A car passed, making a calump-calump-calump sound across the seams.

She felt the wind blowing across her face. Why did he think that he could love her, and she him? After years of hurting her, he wanted to love her. He had taught her to be cold as the wind, the steel, the waters that flowed from the mountains. Was his love ever real? she thought. If it was, it was like the street lights that for brief and dull moments showed the color of the passing car and the steam rising from the hood.

150 words


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