Flash fiction doesn’t require some exclusive deliverable to be read. You can post flash fiction stories anywhere. They can be shared anytime, any place. They can be read on your lunch hour, on a subway, perhaps even on a long elevator ride. And you can read some of the most profound, interesting, provocative, status-quo-challenging stories from start to finish in just a few minutes.
Novels still circulate vastly online, but in the form of serials. Authors post bit by bit, generating an audience as they do so, and fans are given manageable chunks to read before the authors release next the next one. Most of the literature in the Victorian era was published this way, the era famous for it’s “triple-deckers,” or three-part novels, which were all serialized. The modern novel going in retro as indie authors have embraced the serial form online.
If they weren’t serialized, they probably wouldn’t be read. Copy on web pages tends to be around 600 words. Blogs, newsletters, and other web content tend to stay between 2-3 pages. E-books are the only digital format that can deliver long-form text, and they are problematic for reasons discussed, such as usability and the exclusivity of Amazon’s platform. Short form content, like flash fiction, can be disseminated anywhere, with plain HTML.
One thing we want to do on Neat Prose is to stretch the limits of short form creative content. This is where the flash serial story comes in. It is a serialized story of a certain length, perhaps 7,000 words, divided into 1,000 word flash-length parts, which are posted in the necessary intervals to generate an audience. Each part is a whole story unto itself, and each week, or whenever the next part is published, readers get to experience a whole new story, although it will have direct ties to the plot, sequence, and characters of the entire narrative. The plot will progress throughout the story, though not in a linear way. Consider the following visual model of a what a flash serial would look like:
See the gaps in between each diamond. The serial parts aren’t entirely complete, and there are gaps between each story. That could mean chronology, character development, or any number of elements. What’s different about them, from any other form or attempt on this idea, is that they are flash stories. Many novel series have been written, with a similar concept in mind, but theses are 1,000 word serials, and no more than ten of them to make up a short story length work. Why limit them? No one wants to read twenty serial flash stories. The flash serial has its limitations, too.
My process to produce these serials is not to sit and write seven or ten flash fiction stories without knowing their relation. The trick will be in the editing. I will write a short story first, and use an intensive editing process cut the diamonds that I have visualized, resulting in complete, although interdependent stories. The form that I am inventing, the flash-serial, will be largely a edit/revision process, unless I decide to adopt a more economical process in writing them.
The serial will be posted on this blog in certain intervals, hopefully to garner a readership, and I will also host an archive of the stories featured here, in non-serial format. Yes, you may have thought, why don’t I just post serialized short stories, or at least call these that. I hope you will see a demonstrable difference between both ideas. It would be rather difficult to serialize a short story, since it is already compact. A flash serial breaks the boundaries of flash, and it capitalizes on the possibilities of short form creative web content.
But, I can say no more. I must demonstrate the concept here. Very soon, I will be releasing fiction and publishing it. My work serves merely an example of what can be done with the format, and I hope better writers can adopt it and use it on their own sites. I invite you to try.