By Steve Weddle
Jay Stringer and I just hung up -- or 'clicked off' (What do we say anymore? And why do we still say 'dial' a phone number when we just press buttons in the post-rotary days?) -- from the Skypes for our second DSD podcast.
The iTunes shoppe page for the podcast is here. You can download individual episodes or subscribe to the whole run. The second show will be up mid-week after Jay works his evil magic to make me sound like an over-caffeinated lemur.
Future episodes will include publishing news of the week, interviews, reviews, and audio stories.
In this second episode, John McFetridge reads his short story "Santa in a Red Dress."
Jay and I discuss blogs worth reading, the Sherlock Holmes movie (along with a review from Scott D. Parker), and flash fiction. I have a few thoughts about flash fiction and I'd like to know what you think.
1. Flash Fiction owes its popularity to the fact that most people can't follow a single thought for more than thirty seconds. Or eight seconds. Like in that movie where the dude is a rodeo rider and rapper. Or maybe that was EIGHT MILES. Something. Eight something. Eight Days a Week. Beatles. Rock Band. Hey, the Wii is open. Time for a quick bike ride around Wii island.
2. Flash Fiction works much better on the Innerwebs than it does in print. As Jay and I were discussing on the podcast, when his grandpa and I were growing up, we read ink-on-paper magazines. You might have heard about a shepherd boy who threw a rock and cracked open jars full of old copies of LIFE and US WEEKLY. Now flash fiction challenges such as this one and this one and this one allow readers and writers to get glimpses of talent they didn't know existed. When we relied on print mags for our fiction, the flash fiction might have gotten lost between stories, if you could find it at all. A 400-page collection of 200 flash pieces? Not likely.
3. Flash Fiction is much easier to find now. I remember some collections of flash fiction that I used when I taught literature. You could give it to the college students and start a good discussion on character and setting and so forth. Very helpful, since you could read the piece in class and not have to rely on college students actually having done the work. We only had a few choices back when I was teaching. The monks took a long time to illustrate the scrolls scrolls we used. Now, using the community I mentioned above in Idiotic Point The First, finding flash fiction is easier.
4. OK. Let's think about this one for a second. You put a story up on the Innerwebs, chances are you aren't going to get paid $10,000 for it. I remember reading something Garrison Keillor wrote about a story he'd done in The New Yorker, a story had gotten him $10,000 or so. Most online magazines now are run by folks who love what they do and love the stories they work with. They're not doing this for the money, because, well, there ain't none. And the print mags? Did another one die today? I didn't check. So we rely on the online magazines to provide us with great fiction. The writers don't get paid. The editors don't get paid. So, from a writer's point of view, if you're trying to get noticed and share some of your work, does it make sense to spend your time writing a 7,000-word story for one magazine or writing 10 stories of 700 words for various sites? Personally, it depends on what the story is. I've got longer stuff out there because that what it takes to tell the story. I've got shorter stuff out there because I wanted to have fun with something and maybe try out something new. A new character. A wacky idea. Take a chance, you know? But do you think writers are spending more time writing flash because they don't want to spend their "free time" -- time off from paid jobs, doing something for which they don't get paid -- writing for free? Dunno. Maybe some folks work like this.
5. Flash Fiction is great for writers because you can focus on a particular scene or character in something under 1,000 words. You get that done, maybe it's a chapter in a novel. Maybe it's a character study for a novella. Flash Fiction helps writers test out a new voice or fresh idea, as I mentioned a second ago (I remind you because the TV news tells me you have a short attention span. Remember? I already mentioned that.) and, wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. So you take this little, tight piece you've worked on and build it into something more, something bigger. Like you've made an appetizer and want to work it into a larger meal. Or you've painted your study and now want to carry that color scheme throughout the rest of the house.
So what do you think about Flash Fiction? What purpose does it serve? Do you think writers waste their time on these smaller pieces? Or do you think this helps readers and writers?