In the UK, today marks its first annual National Flash Fiction Day. Flash fiction, a term coined around 1992, is also known as micro-fiction. Though there’s no hard and fast parameter for what makes a story short enough to be considered flash fiction, under 1,000 words tends to be consensus. As Shakespeare said, brevity is the soul of wit. And some work is far more resonant with far fewer words. In honor of this new day devoted to the works of those who write best at their briefest, here are a few pieces short enough to read in the five or ten minutes of free time you might have today.
1. Girl – Jamaica Kincaid
Girl is a 650-word second-person dialogue between an Antiguan mother and daughter. The former is trying to impart to her child all the instructions that will ensure she’s seen as a respectable young lady in their community. First published in a 1978 issue of The New Yorker, Girl grapples with what it means to be a woman. It speaks to the role of domesticity, shaming, spirituality, and respectability.
2. Little Things – Raymond Carver
Carver’s Little Things is a study in marital tension. Spare, taut, and masterfully paced, it builds to a frenzy then drops you off the edge of a cliff.
3. The Flowers – Alice Walker
Lovely and chilling, The Flowers is filled with symbolism. Walker forces you down the path a ten-year-old girl follows, and as she draws nearer and nearer to irrevocable change, you’re as startled and sobered as she is.
4. Crabs – Edwidge Danticat
This is a cheat. It isn’t fiction. Instead, it’s a flash essay on an incident that happened to Danticat in her native Port-au-Prince when she was eight. Full of irony, poignancy, and humor, it’s provides insight into need, desire, faith, and consequence.
5. The Mistress of Baby Breath – Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is a gorgeous writer. And this piece displays some of the best craft tricks in her arsenal: it’s filled with beautiful imagery, it has an air of mystery and foreboding, and it ends with you feeling overwhelmingly creeped out.
Happy Flash Fiction Day!