Literary myth claimed that Hemingway, at lunch with fellow writers, bet $10 that he could write a six word short story. He then wrote, the legend goes, “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn” on a paper napkin then passed it around. The other writers had to admit that Hemingway won the bet. Lovely story but contemporary scholars seem to believe that, more than a short story, the famous baby shoe line was originally a newspaper advertisement.
Flash fiction is trying to tell a story with the minimum amount of words possible—no more than 1500. It is so short that the reader is needed to give it closure.
But Hemingway did write a book of flash fiction, In Our Time (1925), a collection of short stories and vignettes rotating around the years before, during, and after WWI.
Virginia Woolf was also experimenting with flash fiction. In 1921, she published “A Haunted House,” the first story in the only short story collection published during her time. It’s the story of a married couple whose house is haunted by the ghosts of a married couple. The ghosts constantly manifest themselves but with no intention of causing harm. They are simply searching for the love they had when alive.
Italian novelist, Italo Calvino, wrote a series of flash stories re: the city that he transformed into the novel Invisible Cities (1972). He said he had been inspired by Augusto Monterroso’s story “The Dinosaur” that is simply this: “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”
For more than 40 years, Joyce Carol Oates was married to the writer Raymond J. Smith. When he unexpectedly died, Joyce wrote “A Widow’s Story”. Here is the complete text: “I kept Myself Alive”.
Short story writer, Lydia Davis, is the daughter of Hope Hale Davis (1903-2004) writer, feminist, teacher and found of the women’s pulp magazine “Love Mirror”. For a while Hope was even part of a soviet spy ring. Lydia’s ex, Paul Auster, is also a storyteller.
In Can’t and Won’t, Lydia has turned letters of complaint into short stories such as “Dear Frozen Peas Manufacturer” where the author complains that the dull yellow green color of the peas on the packaging doesn’t do their product justice.
Nigerian poet and novelist, Ben Okri, writes “stoku”. That is, according to Okri, an amalgam of short story and haiku. It is a story as it inclines towards a flash of a moment, insight, vision or paradox. Oki’s stories are modern day parables where sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish illusion from reality causing you to make the wrong choices. So, instead of going to heaven as planned, you wind up in hell.
Related: Very Short Stories + The Short Story I Wrote Inspired by Wes Anderson and Carlos Castaneda + Hemingway and Baby Shoes + Critical essays on Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time by Reynolds, Michael S. on archive.org + Distinguishing between “Flash” and “Sudden” Fiction + Sudden fiction international: sixty short-short stories book on archive.org HERE + The short story according to Woolf + Translation: The Dinosaur (El dinosaurio) by Augusto Monterroso + Book Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter + Flash Fiction Collection established at the Ransom Center Texas + Flashes On The Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction +
GREAT DAY COMING BY Hope Hale Davis on archive.org HERE
fascinating – love to read your ‘installments’ of thought.