I am really enjoying the challenge of writing 150-word short stories for the BNZ Literary Awards (once called the Katherine Mansfield Awards) this year. The 150-word category - called 'flash fiction' in the States - is a new one, and a groovy concept. For a start, you enter the story on Facebook, and there's a groovy little inspiration tool with random phrases (or there was, can't find it now...), an 'inspiration gallery', examples of other short short stories, and an unfolding 'twitter tale' to get the juices going. This category also has a groovy judge in Graham Beattie.
It's certainly caught my imagination. I've written two so far and found the exercise not unlike doing a sudoku puzzle or cryptic crossword - it challenges and sharpens the mind, and is surprisingly satisfying. Maybe it's just me and my easy distractibility - but one short story idea I've had for awhile, that I haven't managed to get down on paper, has now found a home, and others are lining up ... However, the first 150-word story I wrote last week began from an overheard phrase and an associated idea, and then just unfolded on the page much like a poem (with hours of editing afterwards.)
In fact my novelist friend Thom Conroy says, the 150-word story is a category for a poet (at least one who also likes dabbling in fiction.) It certainly has to have a narrative - albeit concentrated down to the nth degree - but at the same time, as with poetry, economy of language is the key. Each word has to pull its weight and most are freighted with meaning. At the same time, the story needs to have 'space' in it to make it feel like a story not a poem. I guess I mean the reader doesn't need to feel the weight in each word - an unfolding narrative feel is the key.
It's like a tale told over a beer, a joke. It also reminds me of some of the excellent prose poems floating around at the moment. Poet Airini Beautrais is particularly good at them.
Flash fiction has interested me for awhile - in this busy era overloaded with apps, I think it may well find its niche. Why not give it a go? And if economy is not your thing, there are always the other awards to enter... Go here.