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Kevin Catalano: Flash Fiction is Like a Flasher

Flasher

photo: Sebastian Niedlich via Flickr

Jayne Anne Phillips, a former writing instructor of mine at Rutgers-Newark, and a fantastic writer of the short form, referred to the “flash” piece as “one-page fiction.” (She made these pieces famous in her impossibly good Black Tickets.) I don’t think she liked the term flash, and I know many others who despise it. I, on the other hand, think it’s the perfect word to describe how this particular form affects the reader.

It reminds me of the creepy guy lurking in the Wal-Mart parking lot, sunglasses and trench coat. His unfortunate victim is made vulnerable to a quick, frantic peek, and is then left disoriented, forced to make sense of what she just saw. It’s the speed of the event that makes it so intense, and memorable. (I should probably make it clear that I don’t condone this behavior.) Let’s take another scenario: our creepy flasher approaches someone, opens his trench, and holds it open for an interminable ten minutes. Where would the intensity be? It wouldn’t—the duration would dilute it. Oh, it’s a penis, the flashee might think, that’s all. Just a small, wrinkly penis.

[A] creepy flasher approaches someone, opens his trench, and holds it open for an interminable ten minutes. Where would the intensity be?

But that’s not how it works. And that’s not how it works for the flash story either, which sneaks up on the reader, whips open its coat revealing something ugly or beautiful or profound or sad or strange, and then ends, just as abruptly, leaving the reader to question what s/he had read. And it’s in that pondering that the story grows. It becomes.

 

 

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About Kevin Catalano

Kevin Catalano's fiction has appeared in PANK, Prick of the Spindle, Emprise Review, Pear Noir!, Metazen, and others. For two consecutive years his stories made the 'Notable' list for StorySouth's Million Writers Award. He was also a finalist in Terrain’s inaugural fiction contest in 2010. Kevin teaches writing at Rutgers-Newark, where he is also pursuing an MFA in fiction. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey.

2 Awesome Comments So Far

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  1. Kevin Catalano
    May 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I should clarify that Jayne Anne Phillips was my former instructor — she’s still at Rutgers-Newark! Sorry for any confusion.

  2. Jen
    May 9, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Enjoyed your comments on flashing and flash writing. I prefer one over the orher(not gonna tell you which one though). Just read “The bad that can happen…..,,”, loved that!