ABCs of Flash Writing: G for Genre

Posted by on Apr 24, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: G for Genre

Much of the fiction writing I do is what, I suppose, most people concerned with categorization might perhaps call genre fiction; I certainly do not trade in life-as-it-is-lived literary realism.  No, in my stories people grow tree roots from their heads, corporations have the ability to resurrect the dead based on who wins a lottery, farmers slowly turn into scarecrows after being shot by their wives, and translucent squirrels give paraplegics born with spina bifida the ability to walk and run. 

What do we call these kinds of stories?  Fantasy doesn’t quite fit; my work exists, most of the time, in a familiar world, one that does not require the expansive world building of the traditionally fantastic.  But it more often than not occupies a different world than our own, because despite the features that we are familiar with, something hovers—either on the edges or smack in the center of the bullseye—that does not compute with the world we know.

I’ve long chosen to shirk the question of what genre I write, whether it be called science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, magic realism, fabulism, speculative fiction, and simply accepted that my work is genre fiction.

This breadth of definition, and the stripping of the worry of what genre, feels to me like the cutting away of a balloon that wriggles away through the air towards the clouds—a release of sorts, a freedom.  And this freedom, I find, is key to writing genre flash fiction.

Flash fiction is breathless, moving at breakneck pace.  In flash, one cannot follow traditional (and now somewhat outmoded) story structure of exposition-rising-action-climax-falling-action-denoument; there’s simply no time!  So in crafting worlds that are not the ones readers know, writers must shirk the worries of will-people-get-it or how-does-that-happen.  Do earthquakes make people float away?  (In one of my stories, they do.)  Fine!  That’s the world the story exists in.  Does a man fall in love with a woman the size of a thimble wit

hout giving much concern to her size?  Alright!  These premises cannot slow down to offer readers time to wonder the whys hows what(?!)s—flash fiction must flash, it must go, immersing readers in its world so fast they do not have time to wonder: what kind of world is this?  The world must simply be.

And readers of flash—good ones anyway—I find, are welcoming of this ride.  They are willing to ask no questions, to let the premise take the cliché-proverbial-metaphorical wheel and drive down the cliché-proverbial-metaphorical highway.  At least, I like to think I am one of these readers: when I sit down to read flash, I empty my slate, allowing myself to be immersed, for however short a stint, in a world that is perhaps my own, something like my own, or entirely foreign from my own.  Most readers, I think, are like this, happy to be baptized into universes that stretch the boundaries of what we expect, know, and find familiarity in.  So, flash writer: don’t worry about buckling me in (to continue this needless and corny metaphor) and setting down the rules before shooting down the street.  Simply push me into your world and I’ll find my way.  I’ll figure it out.

Send me to the stars, or down into the ocean, or into a place where everything is pink.  I’ll spend my time with you, wildly abandoning all that I’ve known and all that I will ever know.

Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Zone 3, Hawai’i Review, Eleven Eleven, and many others.  He is the author of Ivory Children, published in 2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks.  He possesses a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, Missouri.  He he has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and was recently nominated for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2016.