Search This Blog

Friday, 27 July 2012

Barbara Algie on Flash Fiction

The power of words is extraordinary. In the past they have started (and ended) wars. They can make or break lives. But do we know how to use them wisely and well and are we doing so?

If one sits down to write a novel one has the luxury of being able to waffle one's way through thousands of them, using as much padding as we had in the shoulders of our 1940’s dresses. Today the latest gimmick is a speed-orientated writing world known as ‘Flash Fiction’.   Take any long story you wrote years ago and reduce it to 300 words or less.  Harder than you think but, when accomplished, you have the very same story condensed for space-age readers who haven’t the time in which to delve into lengthier volumes.

 Politicians are the ones who excel at actually manipulating words, for after a lengthy speech in Parliament, it is often difficult to remember what was their actual subject matter, let alone what they intend doing to  rectify the issue.   Perhaps Flash Fiction could be a viable option for them.

 Today, with multi-tasking being the order of the day and the quick-fire speech of the young (sometimes so fast and unintelligible that I feel the need to book myself a hearing test) words are being grossly abbreviated to the detriment of gracious living.   People are always looking for shortcuts to accomplish their goals.

For instance a proposal of marriage, once a leisurely romantic pursuit, has now been jet propelled into the future and, with a vivid imagination, can take place anywhere from a few fathoms under the ocean by couples wearing matching flippers and snorkels to halfway through a bungy jump where, linked together and upside down, they somehow manage to get it right in spectacular fashion.

All this speed has taken its toll on the education of the young.   Children do not seem to be taught to ‘write’ in schools any longer and are unaware what their printing look like when linked together. Texting is one of the reasons for their inability to spell.  Who needs to be able to spell when one can text  ‘Kn U kum 4 T 2nite rskd rnty B’?   And so the importance of spelling now also received a final kick in the ass. 

And so what’s next?

I would like to think that meaningful, well-spelt words will continue to stay in fashion.  That writers will still produce novels and stories with delightful descriptions which inspire and entertain us, that libraries and books will remain (despite the arrival of e-pads and whatever next is in the pipeline) and that those Flash  Fiction kids will come and go into cyber space.

I personally prefer my fairy stories to begin with ‘Once upon a time’ and the endings to be ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ but of course this isn’t always the case in this Life in the Fast Lane.




  1. You've hit the spot, Barbara! In this frenetic and often superficial world I often find I'm wishing someone had invented time travel - backwards. But then again I read a the old classic 'Rob Roy' recently, to keep my mind on things literary and although I enjoyed it - well - let's say I think we need to get some sort of law that says 'if you're in an English country, speak English.' Too much change too quickly I say.

  2. Bless you, Big Al! Once again you've hit the spot! In this frantic world we live in something like Flash Fiction may be the "in-thing" but just how satisfying is it to either write or read? It's a fad and I would suggest it'll "flash' in and "flash" out just as quickly. Good things take time. Yeast needs to rise slowly for a good loaf of bread. Michelangelo took four years to complete the Sistene Chapel ceiling. We are so fortunate, we members of the Mairangi Mob, who have time to get things right, time to mull over a sentence, a word, time to make sure that what is in our minds safely and beautifully translates to the page. Let's leave flashing to those sorry souls in dirty raincoats and give our time and energy to things that will last.