Tuesday, 13 March 2012

1000 Words of Wonder - Guest Blog from Marc Nash

A guest blog post from Marc Nash on just how lyrical a flash-fiction can be. with accompanying video:

Somehow I started writing weekly flash fiction for my blog as part of my marketing "strategy" for my debut novel, tweeting the link as part of Twitter's #fridayflash community. I'd barely written a short story at that point, let alone one restricted to 1000 words. But the discipline of producing a new story a week and a limited word count were wonderfully conducive to learning rapidly! After a little over a year I had 52 flash pieces and having said I wouldn't write anything new while marketing the novel, suddenly I found I had an anthology for my second book.

I'm always wrestling with words, trying to nail down the elusive precision of their meaning. Flash fiction allowed me to pursue my grappling with language in closer focus than even in my novel writing. With no more than 500-1000 words, there is simply no room for wastage or indulgence. Every word has to count. Has to have an impact.

1000 words play off each other in a way that the 75,000 words of a novel just can't. A reader can hold 1000 words in their mind, where they can't possibly hold all 75,000 of a novel. Therefore the reader is far more able to catch the resonances and layers, picking up the significance of a word or phrase in the first paragraph through something that you've supplied them in the final paragraph. A novel stretching out over 75,000 words cannot assume the reader is going to recall touchstone words and phrases in quite the same way.

Then there's the sound and rhythm of the piece. You can sustain a lyricism over 1000 words in a way that is far harder over the course of a novel. For the 2-3 minute duration of a flash piece, you can make the language "sing" inside the reader's head. You can afford to choose a word for its sound as much as its meaning. For those 1000 words, the flash writer is in complete control of the reader's breath. This simply isn't possible in the same way over the course of a novel. The reader doesn't maintain their concentration and focus at an even intensity over every word. For 2-3 minutes of flash, when it's written excitingly and lusciously, we can absolutely make them!

Yet flash fiction is far from abbreviation. It demands the correct word choice to convey exactly what the writer needs it to say. Words have to bear even more weight in flash, because they are being asked to do so much in a very short span. Language becomes a tool wielded with laser precision, something I was able to take back into my novel writing. I'm still writing flash fiction, though not one a week. Just when the idea takes hold and demands to be expressed in the shortest form of narrative possible. Usually some image or idea I've come across during the week, which I can explore in all its many facets within the scope of 1000 words. Flash fiction rather than shrinking everything, actually allows you to open out one idea or image into the full complement of its subtle shades of meaning. It is both microscopic slide and telescopic lens lanced out into the cosmos! For only 1000 words, it is surprisingly unlimited.


  1. Thanks for this inspiring post. Your approach to flash fiction lifts the simple story line into the realm of art - almost poetry but not an imitation. For me you have given it a reason for being beyond the quick read and way beyond the practice piece the poor cousin of the novel.

  2. Thank you both very much. I do regard it very much as an art form in its own right.

    marc nash