A Crash Course in Flash Fiction

Because of this expectation, many critics, authors, and readers are quick to dismiss short forms like flash, micro, and short-short fiction as superficial, i.e. lacking depth in plot, character, and setting. Others see these forms as a symptom of our increasingly shortening attention spans, our desire to consume quickly and without much reflection. One consistent argument is that flash fiction, despite its ongoing popularity, simply doesn’t have that quintessential “staying power” of longer stories or novels. They don’t, in other words, linger.

Rooted in the oral tradition, fairy tales have survived for thousands of years precisely because they employ techniques like brevity, repetition, flatness, abstraction, and shock—mechanisms designed to aid the brain with retention and recall. And these stories have not only lingered, but lasted for thousands of years. They did so not because of their specificity or depth, but because they emulate cultural patterns, build community, provide comfort, and offer up new ways to see and interact with the world.

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