Congratulations to Richie Narvaez, the winner of our Flash Hybrid Noir Contest! Thanks to everyone who entered.
I am going to tell you how to write flash fiction, even if I have to kill someone to do it. First of all, your first sentence should indicate your genre immediately. Is it horror, science fiction, magical realism, noir? Now Donald Saltpeter, PhD, author of I Am A Literary Writer. I Don’t Do Genre, might say to that, “I am a literary writer. I don’t do genre.”
“But literary is a genre,” you might have your protagonist answer.
“It is not,” Professor Saltpeter, 47 but looking much older, might respond.
“Tis not,” says Saltpeter, no doubt wearing a hairpiece.
“How do you define genre?”
“So ‘personal issues’ plus ‘vague ending’ does not equal formula?”
“Is there wine at this conference or not?” Professor Saltpeter says, then storms off to flirt with and pitch a new book idea to the fiendishly young literary agent tilting perilously in front of the one tiny bar in the giant room.
Second, don’t digress. Just because Dr. Saltpeter succeeds in wilily wooing the literary agent — Megan Perkins could be her name — away from the wine bar and wobbily walking them both to the elevator and no doubt to his corner room on the tenth floor does not mean you should follow the professor’s progress, since your story has other things to do, other places to go, a panel where you pretend to say something original, perhaps, and you were never actually in love with Megan were you, after just two drinks at the AWP last year and a spattering of sexts since? Your readers don’t want to run up the back stairwell in a breathless sweat, three stairs at a time. Don’t peek out the fire exit. Don’t tiptoe to the door, clumsily tripping over a tray of half-eaten grilled cheese sandwiches. Stick to your plot.
Third, most of all, the largest issue, the biggest factor for success in flash fiction is to be concise. You’ll want to keep your word count to around 499. Thus, instead of writing something like “Saltpeter rips open the door and screams drunkenly, ‘By the great beard of William Faulkner!’ you might instead write: “The professor says, ‘Hmm, yes?’”
Finally, finish with a flourish. Consider ending with a twist, something that will keep your story in the readers’ minds. At least until they check their Facebook statuses. For instance, you could go back, if you must, to standing outside the professor’s room, now realizing that on the long dash there, that that whole time you had been clutching the hardcover version of the professor’s last book, Isabel Allende and the Art of Crime Fiction, and it is quite heavy, including 42 pages of pictures and an introduction by James Patterson, and wielded properly, sharp corners forward, it could do lethal damage to the human skull.
The professor says, “Hmm, yes.”
“Is she dead?” you ask.
“Not yet,” the professor says.
“But the novel is,” he offers testily, pointing a gun. “The novel is dead.”
Richie Narvaez has had work featured in Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, Indian Country Noir, Long Island Noir, Mississippi Review, Murdaland, Plots with Guns, Storyglossia, and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens.
Photo by Helfmann at German Wikipedia (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABleistift_35fach.jpg) via Wikimedia Commons.