¿Quivole, mi gente? So I happened to post on Facebook the other day about new info! (some might not have any clue, so here is what I am talking about:
So with that - the blog changes a bit. Don't worry - I will be better at keeping up to date with events and arts happenings in the Houston-Galveston area (as well as around the state and beyond) but for this semester - So I think, on the weekdays, I will keep the blog posts a bit more writing style-ish, as I get to add in my take on one of my favorite forms of fiction = Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, Micro Cuento, what ever you choose to call it... and on the weekends, I will add in the events coming up. So, Let's begin -
My professor for this semester for this class - (titled Study in Forms - Flash Fiction in Video & Text) is Daniel Chacón, author of Hotel Juarez: Stories, Rooms and Loops (click on the link to to check out more on the book, click on Chacón's name to get more info on him) has started off by asking us the following:
What is Flash Fiction? What are the important elements of the text, characterization, setting, etc.
Why is it different from prose poems?
So, in this blog post, let me see if I can answer that.
What is flash fiction? The best way I can describe it is in the name - a flash of a tale, a sudden story that draws a fiction piece in the quickest of way in the fewest words possible. I will use two examples to point out what I mean. Here is the first one:
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid - click on the link and read it and then come back. I'll wait. (its used a lot, but damn it, its good)
. . . so, you ready? Ok, so print it, keep it, read it again, but understand that the reason this story works is due to the fact that it has trimmed away the "extra" that a reader is used to. There is no narrator filling you on the location, of the jobs both the mother and the daughter are engaged in. The reader doesn't know how the daughter feels, or what she thinks, or how she truly feels about all the advice her mother give. Hell, we don't even know her name. All of it is unimportant - the message is the key here, not the local, not what happens to the girl after her mother has finished her diatribe. The story is rooted in the speech and it speaks to what is expected of a woman in her culture. - Sudden fiction is just that - it is sudden, it drops the reader in a story or an event and does not give you the 360o that other novels and short stories give you. There is no pause in sudden fiction, it just goes. It goes until it is done - and ends as quickly as it began.
A sudden fiction piece pushes the reader along a line where they must infer (or not infer) in order to get what is happening. Assumptions have to be made or in some cases, there is no need to "over read" the piece - all the elements that are of importance are there.
THE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS IN SUDDEN FICTION -
Here is a second story to help illustrate my point. I give you - The Book of Sand (translated from the Spanish) by Jorge Luis Borges (click on the link and read the story, again, i will wait.)
So - after reading this, some things should have stuck out:
A) Narration - the narrator here points the story - there is not much in the way of expanded detail to tell us all about his life before the book seller comes to the door - we don't need it. It doesn't help us understand the story any better -
B) The Plot - is, just like the narration, pointed, everything is quick paced and locks the reader into the actual" book of sand" :
" 'He told me that his book is called the
Book of Sand because neither the book nor sand
possess a beginning or an end.'
He suggested I try finding the first page.
I placed my left hand on the cover and opened the
book with my thumb and forefinger almost touching.
All my efforts were useless: several pages always lay
between the cover and my hand. It was as though
the pages sprouted from within the book.
'Now search for the last page.'
Again I failed; I only managed to stammer in a voice
not my own:
'This cannot be.' "
C) Characterization - the everyman exists no more. The characters are strongest here - they have to be. They have to jump out at the reader as quick as they would have to if they were on the screen as a short film or as a short play.
I think that is the power of a sudden fiction piece - it has to have twice the punch of a short story and be highly sharpened in comparison to a novel. Does that make sense? Hope so...
SUDDEN FICTION VS. PROSE POETRY
so here is Chacón's second question:
WHY IS FLASH FICTION DIFFERENT FROM PROSE POEMS?
First I think we need to talk about what Prose poetry is - prose poems are those poems that are written out as sentences. They, like a story even a sudden/ flash fiction story, follow the whole page, can be chunked in to paragraphs. Prose poems are heavy on the imagery and precise words and can be a page. (Really, they can be any length, but for this conversation about the distinction, I am going to go with that measurement). They do not have to follow the left line or center line alignment that a standard poem does, but it can rhyme or not.
Here is an example of a prose poem - click on the bold words - The Prose Poem by Campbell McGrath
OK, so you see what happened there? I think from experience, I can say that they are slightly related, but totally apart in a few ways:
1) Sudden Fiction still holds onto one thing, - there is a plot, a point to all the words and the actions and the quick description of events and locations. It is fast, but its there.
2) Prose Poems work from the image - it can be full on sentences that describe something occurring, but it is always something that happens into comparison to something. The precision of the words is linked to the clarity of the image.
3) Sudden Fiction deals with characters, developing them ever so slightly, every so quickly, but it happens.
Here are two links to help give you a little on what I said above, but they say it so much better than me. Click on the bold.
How to Tell Prose Poetry Apart from Flash Fiction
So the last task - in class, we have to read at least three stories for the week - from the book Sudden Fiction International - and the story I have picked to discuss is THE LAUGHTER by Henrich Boll. As a sudden fiction piece it rides fast - the story is told from a 1st person perspective - a particular man gives the reader a tale about his profession - he is a professional "laught-er" - he is the embodiment of response to joke, to comedian. If a show is to make, this is the guy to get the infectious bomb that goes off and keeps the tone full and positive. In the end, he discusses that because this is his career, he doesn't laugh at home. He is quite the opposite. He and his wife live a very chill life - "So I laugh in so many different ways, but my own laughter, I have not heard." (pg. 91) - I like the tale, it doesn't take us on a full episode of his life, but he gives us a sort of character travel - a detail of how he works, what he does, and how he relates t others. it is quick and easy. - I am reminded of something along the same lines I read in a graphic novel - "The Watchmen" in it a joke is told by one of the characters - and come to think of it, it can be a flash fiction piece all on its own:
"Rorschach: I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor... I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains."
If you have any questions, leave me a comment below - and if you are in class - hit me up on the message board in BB or here.
So for you guys that are used to the "regular blog, come back this weekend!!! Updates soon!!
And as always - here is the tease: