I always think it is funny when you read interviews with authors and they say that one of the most common questions they get asked is ‘where do you get all your ideas’ – as if they are a rare commodity. Ideas rain down on writers every day and one of the sad tasks for any writer is deciding which stories to run with, and which to let slip through your fingers.
Flash fiction, for me, has been a fantastic vehicle to write out some of these ideas, which I know if pushed could turn into a novel, but when you have five novels, three kid’s books and countless short stories already waiting to be completed, you tend to avoid taking on something new.
Flash fiction allows you to get the idea on paper in one sitting. This has the added benefit of meaning you have something you can send out in a very short time, which is particularly good if it is a topical story. Also many of the publishers of flash fiction are online, so from first draft to publication can easily happen in under a month. It may also still take three years (I’ve experienced both), so don’t look at it as a key to a quick publication.
My flash fiction story Nose Plugs (link removed due to site issues), is something I wrote after watching a documentary on a multinational company which is slowly but surely taking over the world’s food production, with potentially devastating consequences. I won’t mention their name, because they are a particularly litigious company, but it was a story I was passionate to get out and flash fiction gave me the ability to do it quickly and get my point across without too much fluff.
I’m sure eventually I will explore a lot of the topics that I’ve covered in flash fiction in much longer shorts or even novellas. But when that idea is burning inside of you, and you just want to get it out, flash fiction is a great way to test the waters.