This week, in lieu of a BEST OF 2011 series, we’re running five stories focused on Stuff We Liked in 2011.
I like small things that fit with other small things to make big things. Small things by themselves are, quite honestly, kind of irritating. For example, I’ve always really appreciated flash fiction as a concept, but not always in practice, as some writers—and I’m speaking rather generally, here—think that since flash fiction is about the distillation of a story and all its elements—rather than reduction—that their final product should be so emotionally charged, so saddening or stupefying that the reader must be moved, this mistake often resulting in a hammy story that has one or two dead toddlers and three or four White Nuclear families ruined. I really do believe that, when you get right down to it (is that a Midwestern colloquialism? I love that phrase), it’s often more difficult to write an effecting or arresting short piece than a longer one with the same elements and characters and conflicts.
But when you remove these short-short pieces from isolation, when you group them with other short-short or long-short or short-long pieces that involve the same characters and places and concepts, the sum can be, pardon the cliche, greater than its parts. And for rather obvious reasons: vignettes with their own story arcs—or even just cogent beginnings and ends—are bound to resonate more with the reader. There are no chapters that merely move the plot along or fill space; everything has its place on merit. Continue reading