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Flash fiction as literature can produce gorgeous and evocative distillations. More than a poem, less than a short story. This is the beauty that can be found in a well-wrought piece of flash – the combination of the lyricism of poetry and the characterization of a short story. Good flash fiction is a skill-based genre requiring honed precision, and demanding literary focus by the artist.

In these modern times, when attention spans envy the lifespan of an iPhone 6 battery and compete with the bells and strangely profound satisfaction of thumb-swiping games, sudden fiction offers its reader an opportunity to ingest quickly and digest slowly. It should have a “staying” factor.

The short short story form has been around a long time. But perhaps the 21st Century is its heyday. Online publishing allows these tiny gems to shine for more readers than at any other time in literate history. One can scoop up electronic handfuls. In the past, they would have to be compiled in volumes which were rare, or shared orally, or submitted for even rarer contests, or simply tucked away into an author’s personal papers to be discovered posthumously and rendered quaint. Today, there are numerous online journals that publish the various word lengths of flash, there are numerous contests weeding out the chaff from the wheat, and there are even competitions such as therealljidol in which hundreds of competitors write to prompts and on a deadline, produce compact pieces of writing and very often some of these entries are fantastic and successful pieces of flash fiction.

Flash fiction isn’t a complicated genre to define. It follows the same general rules of any good storytelling – beginning, middle, ending. Character, plot, and literary devices. It is often a vehicle for magical realism or slice of life in which it hints at a larger story. It can be an effective way to reach an adult reader through subject matter, or approach, that would in a longer work, be Young Adult. It can work with “type” but in a shorter format it’s taking the essence of “type” and stripping it of longer, convoluted trappings of a novel, thus exposing the “type” as a true psychological analogy. It can rely on “trope” without becoming hackneyed. It will oftentimes act as an allegory because there isn’t enough length to allow it to become sentimental.

When it’s good, it’s breathtaking. When bad, it’s forgetful but not usually agonizingly so because of its brevity. It is an art form that can be practiced and polished. The goal being distillation. Selectively extracting and condensing to a point of purification of character, story, word choice, killing line.

Season 10 of The Real LJ Idol has been filled with bright flashes of sudden fiction. Blindingly gorgeous combinations of words that leave the reader seeing residual spots long after finishing. And we have Gary to thank for encouraging such artistry!

I, personally, am drawn to short short stories that surprise me with lyricism or turns of phrases, introduce characters I haven’t met before, or end with such intensity of skillful thought that clarity bursts through. yachiru is a writer who consistently offers all of those experiences to her reader. This season she has written a piece that has stayed with me. It's a bit of magical realism, archetype, and a coming of age story. She painted it so succinctly that her story, her character, has become an image seared into the meat of my brain.

Canard – 636 words.

Rather than perform a critique of a piece of writing that has not been asked to be critiqued, I would attempt to respond to it likewise, to condense what her amazing short short story means to me, how it affected me, the ways in which it stays with me.

Inspired by Yachiru's Canard - 245 words.

I knew
The physical pleasures
Of childhood
Picking the scabs
Off my skinned knees
Running until my lungs were enflamed
The nodule growing just beneath
The flesh at the tip of my tailbone
Scratching at it until my tail erupted
The glee and the relief
And the rightness of such an appendage

From child to young woman
The shift and the change
The metamorphosis
The split cocoon
The wetted wings spreading
Wide ready to fly

And my tail

Some boys wear monster masks
Glued onto the bones of their skulls
And their grins are slavering terrible
Things to behold
Their fingers snip snip and cut and separate
They pack, male male male wolves
Alpha and omega and the outcast
They had sniffed me out
The scent of my tail
And they began to hunt me
My fingers scrabbling in the dirt
Spelling out not the name of my attackers
But the secret name I called myself
My true face

The assault was quick
The recovery slow
Bath and bed and bed and bath
Not enough water to wash clean
Not enough pads to soak the blood dry
My mother with her gaze averted
From the place they cut away part of who I was
She offered me a new pair of shoes
A crisp linen apron
A jaunty hat and a new hairdo
Pots of face paint and tubes of lipsticks
I had to give myself what I really needed

Leather wings that burst out my back

And can we, perhaps, go even shorter –

my tail balances me
boys cut it from my body
fly away free


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2017 08:24 am (UTC)
Flash fiction is compelling and I think you're right that e-publishing lets these micro fictions and ficlets flourish :)
Aug. 29th, 2017 02:42 pm (UTC)
I do find it compelling and a worthwhile genre. It's so prevalent in fandom but I think sometimes it isn't seen as worthy as longer work. This is somewhat augmented with original fiction, but still...we seem to have a bias against short work.
Aug. 29th, 2017 01:35 pm (UTC)
I remember that piece. It really grabbed me.
Aug. 29th, 2017 02:42 pm (UTC)
Me, too!
Aug. 29th, 2017 05:51 pm (UTC)
This poem struck a cord. Beautifully done.

My MIL once wrote a poem that she wished she had a tail to express her feelings, and wings, dramatic black leather ones like a bat, to take her off the ground. There was one more thing. I think a coat, soft and shiny. You poem reminded me a lot of that.
Aug. 29th, 2017 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks, hon! I really appreciate your comments here! I can't claim any of the "content" of the poem as it is derived from another Idolar's piece this season, but strong stuff indeed and I'm not surprised to hear about your MIL's poem because this imagery is so "universal unconscious" in its intent!
Aug. 30th, 2017 02:24 am (UTC)
yachiru really was an inspiration this season, as I see j0ydivided also picked a piece, and I seriously considered one myself, it really was down to the final three before I went a different way. Absolutely the choice to "overlook" shorter fiction is likely related to the length and that we expect a story to be more substantial. But writing is writing!
Aug. 30th, 2017 03:24 pm (UTC)
I think it's a great testimonial to her skills as a writer and imaginer that her work has stayed with so many of her readers!

Flash fiction is an absolutely legitimate form and I'm pleased that today we have more access to truly fantastic work in the genre.
Aug. 30th, 2017 05:35 am (UTC)
I remember that yachiru piece as well, and it was really striking.

I liked this poem as well, the tail a unique part of who this girl is, just as unique as her innocence or purity until it is stolen away from her (as abstracted wonderfully here via metaphor).
Aug. 30th, 2017 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, K! And I appreciate you commenting on my attempt at fangrrling her!
Aug. 30th, 2017 03:19 pm (UTC)
This is so cool!
Aug. 30th, 2017 03:22 pm (UTC)
You're so cool!!! *smooch*
Sep. 2nd, 2017 05:14 pm (UTC)
I am a sucker for a good poem! You did a wonderful job of crafting one from this brilliant story. Well chosen and well crafted!
Sep. 4th, 2017 10:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this comment! I'm glad the poem worked for you as an inspired-by piece!
Sep. 4th, 2017 08:10 am (UTC)
It's wonderful to read your thoughts on the short short story, then to re-experience yachiru's wonderful Canard, but the gift is your poem, your poems. And as much as I love the first full of imagery and description, I love the second's brevity and freedom.

As a reader one of the things I truly enjoy and appreciate about your writing is that you always give a little more--story, thought, insight, heart and soul to every single thing you write.
Sep. 4th, 2017 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you, M! I really was excited to be able to talk a little about this literary form we all hold dear! And thank you for your encouragement. It's tricky to write an inspired-by piece when the piece is so original and was such an integral part of this season's works for me.
Sep. 4th, 2017 07:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely love your wonderful description of flash fiction, brilliantly put. Especially loved this: when attention spans envy the lifespan of an iPhone 6 battery

And I completely agree this should be the age of flash fiction.

And your homage poem is absolutely gorgeously and vividly put, amazing.
Sep. 4th, 2017 10:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks, J! We are indeed practitioners of the short short form and I was jazzed to be able to hold forth about it a bit. It IS legitimate and today writers have made it truly worthwhile!

Glad you felt the poem was a good tribute!
Sep. 4th, 2017 08:19 pm (UTC)

I LOVED Yachiru! I was debating using one of hers too! That particular story made me hurt for that girl and despise those boys. Your response was just what I felt - monsters disguised as boys jave no right to terrorize women. There should be gentler ways to leave girlhood behind. Bastards.

Sep. 4th, 2017 10:24 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear that so many of us were drawn to yachiru's work throughout the season. She is a truly talented writer!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )