Is Flash Fiction becoming a rising art form?

Yesterday I I stumbled across a story trying to answer the question-  Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?

While the story itself was interesting enough, there were two things that struck me as I read it. One- the format was serialized Flash Fiction, and Two- at the time he’d gained over 6000 readers and counting. 6000! Of course, some of that was sites like Boing Boing linking to it and driving traffic, but that’s still an impressive number for what I’ve always thought of as a style too short to be worth bothering with.

Now, one could argue that this particular story may or may not be “real” Flash Fiction, as while each part is indeed less than 1000 words, the whole is MUCH longer. However, the format, which is similar to a detailed synopsis, is definitely a tighter and more compact style that sets up a framework while leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. It’s almost like the pages of a webcomic, really, enough to suck you in and give you another piece of the puzzle, but not deeply engaging or taking very long to read on its own.

A large number of people (if you scroll down that story and read the responses) suggested setting up a blog site, putting up advertising, and finishing the story there as a way to make some money for the writer. Some even go farther than that, since the story is unfinished, and offer the writer some donations to continue the story and carry it to its logical conclusions because they’re so intrigued with the ideas and story.

So back to the question at hand- is Flash Fiction becoming a rising art form?

The answer may be yes! I had never taken it seriously before, but now presented with an actual successful form of Flash Fiction I have begun to wonder. Most Flash Fiction I’ve read seems to take the form similar to vignettes (ie a single scene story), but obviously there’s a place for tightly packed prose fiction as well.

I’ve known that the Japanese and Chinese have been producing these kinds of stories for a while. The Japanese obsession with Cell Phones has resulted in Cell Phone Novels writing in chunks of 70-100 words (remember they use Kanji, so two characters can be a complete word to them) which are broadcast to the readers each day on their cellphones to read over lunch or during a commute. They are also popular in China, for similar reasons, but apparently have caught on in Europe and South Africa as well. Some English sites have also been trying to produce them.

If course, you could ask whether a Cell Phone Novel is the same as Flash Fiction, since as I pointed out they are longer than 1000 words. I guess it all come down to how you definite Flash Fiction. I like one of the Chinese terms for them- “One Smoke Stories”, stories that are short enough to read in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. If you use that as a guideline, then it makes it a little easier to sort them out.

As for myself, I’ve never really been good at writing short stuff as I tend to get too into the story and suddenly my “6 page story” is 20 pages! I enjoy dialogue, and detail, and interplay. However, that said, there is something to be said for writing bare-bones narration focused on just the essential elements and if you take a short and serialized approach to it I think it can be an alternate method for delivering longer works.(As is the case with most cell phone novels.)

What does everyone else think?

P.S. If anyone is interesting in trying this hand at this form, you should probably look at this article, and this article. And, if you want a place to put it, check this blog post out.

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