Flash memoir is an exciting concept related to flash fiction, which is not a new writing form but now has a catchy name and has become popular. Short stories are in the range of 3000-5000 words. Flash fiction is even shorter – no strict limit unless there are contest rules, but generally 300-1000 words. Micro fiction is a few to 300 words. Recall Ernest Hemingway’s legendary six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” You don’t hear about it much, but short stories, flash and micro fiction can easily be adapted to life writing. Call it flash memoir.
Writing an entire memoir is daunting, requiring a lot of time, at least some writing talent to avoid boring readers, and organizational skills. Life writing is easier when it encompasses short stories, flash memoir and even poetry. Cut way back on the time and organizational skills, but it’s still nice to learn some basic writing skills (a future blogpost).
Writing short is much easier than writing long. Or is it? I’ve been taking an online class on writing flash fiction/memoir, through Story Circle Network, to brush up my short-writing skills and to learn how to adapt flash to true stories. The latter is easy, but good short-writing is not so easy. You must skimp on words but still create the essence of the story, providing a beginning hook to grab reader interest, then break into the guts of the scene, and end with a wrap-up. Novice writers should not be frightened, but should write their true short story or flash drafts as best they can. It’s the rewrites that are hell!
When you write short you must strip out all the babble—the extraneous thoughts, chatter, anything that isn’t directly a part of the story line or isn’t directly related to establishing a character personality. This is true for any story, but especially so for shorts. The chatty stuff can distract the reader. Think as a storyteller: what can I say in the beginning to grab interest, and what can I say at the end as a finishing thought. Often flash fiction ends with a twist—a clever, thoughtful line or perhaps a different perspective or a new understanding. The surprise isn’t necessary, but try to give your story a point—usually, what did you (or someone in your story) learn or come away with. If you can say this in a funny or a poignant way, extra points for you!
See Flash Fiction Online for some examples, and imagine how you can use this style for your own real life stories.