Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.
I first learned about flash fiction on writer Laura Besley's blog, and thought I'd give it a go. Here's my first attempt, Out Back (677 words).
Bobby stood pressed against the wall beside the door, careful not to be seen through the window from the house. Rick filled his pad with the cool stuff Mom banned. Ray always stayed with Rick above the garage whenever he came home from the Army. Rick owed him. Ray softened up the folks and Rick got the benefits.
No one ever called Bobby ‘little brother’. Ray and Rick called him ‘the kid’. Bobby knew he was ‘the surprise’ —except to Nancy. Rick said he was ‘The Embarrassment’ to Nancy. Bobby thought maybe it was because her son, Bertie, was so much better at everything. To Nancy, Bertie was the center of the universe. Rick put it different, which always made Dad snap about sacrilege, but Bobby figured it meant the same thing.
If Bobby didn’t show, Nate would tell Bertie who would make sure Bobby caught it. Bobby wouldn’t give Bertie the satisfaction. With one final glance out the window, Bobby took a deep breath, shoved the stuff up his shirt, slipped out the door and scurried down the stairs.
Rick always went behind the workshop, and Ray too, that one time they made a rancid sweet sort of smoke from Ray’s tiny cigarette. Rick snapped and told Bobby to get lost, but Ray laughed and sent him to raid the refrigerator. Rick got angry. He said Bobby was the smart one. Ray quit laughing.
Bobby ducked around the workshop to where Nate was waiting for him. “Nothing to it,” he crowed as he flung himself on the ground next to Nate, but his friend still looked nervous. Bobby never expected Bertie to hide behind the fence like he did, but he couldn’t be mad at Nate. Bertie was Bertie. Like grabbing a can of beer just like he’d been invited, then spraying the rotten-smelling foam all over them when he popped the top. That was Bertie. Swigging a mouthful like he had Pabst Blue Ribbon over his Cheerios every morning—that was Bertie. Choking on his own swagger was Bertie too.
Bertie took charge of the cigarettes. He tapped the Marlboro on its end like they did on TV, then took it in his lips and flicked the lighter. Bobby wondered what Nancy would do if she saw her precious Bertie smoking like a pro. Bertie looked about to hurl, but he enjoyed watching Bobby squirm. If he or Nate chickened out, Bertie would never let them live it down.
Bobby jumped at Bertie yelling murder in dirty words to scald Nancy’s ears. Bobby saw first the scuffed leather boots, then the faded Levi’s, the length of fat link chain clipped onto a belt loop, attached to the black leather wallet Bobby knew in the back pocket, to the garden hose in the grease-stained hands, and the pressure nozzle shooting water past him. He looked beyond the frayed denim jacket and dirty work shirt, into Rick’s stern face and that shaggy mop of hair. Those fierce-looking eyes pretended to see nothing but Bertie.
“Cut it out,” he hollered. “I’ll tell—”
Bobby wished he could raise one eyebrow like Rick. It always made Bertie shut up
.—A Chaotic Mind
Hey! Well done on your first flash fiction!! Did you enjoy writing it?? Thanks for the mention - much appreciated!
I did. I know it's not too terribly suspenseful or fecund with possibility, but it's what I know. And, I did chop off almost three hundred words (just counting the final edit), so I'm quite proud of myself. Thanks for getting me hooked!
Now we're talking. This is, aside from a couple of your essays on family, the most engaging thing you've written. You could sparkle it up with some more colorful or colloquial adjectives, but you have more authentic character development here than in any of the other fiction of yours that I've read. Also, you weren't bogged down by setting, so it felt much more vivid.
Yeah. I've been told that before. The problem is, writing personal stuff is so—personal. I think my primary fan base would wither away if they started reading about themselves on my blog. (Big D doesn't count, as he doesn't read my blog).
About the settings: you're absolutely right. It's what I started with because I didn't know what else to write about, and it's a difficult habit to break. It all goes back to that compulsion to bring to life the world in my head.
About colloquialisms: I waffled with words like joint, roach, munchies, etc., but I wanted to leave Bobby at that tipping point between naivete and punk kid. I did use words like chicken, doofus and moron in the quotes, but they all got cut due to length. My favorite was "You wanna jam on my ax?"
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