We writers want so much to talk about the Big Things, the Important Things. But it’s daunting to address the big things like Love and Hate and Death and Loss and Injustice, especially for the flash fiction writer.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech novelist Kazuo Ishiguro said, “But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”
Dear Writer, I want you to know this: You can talk about these things indirectly. By conveying as well as you can the small moments.
Emily Dickinson famously said, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”
And Joy Williams said, “So many times in a single day we glimpse a view beyond the apparent. Write those moments down. They might not speak to you at first. But eventually they might. Everybody writes too long and too much anyway, sacrificing significance for story.”
Today, you can’t talk about Death, but you can write about the small, significant moments around Death.
Unable to fully process my father’s death and our complicated relationship, I instead wrote about an inebriated woman escaping her father’s funeral reception with a complete stranger in order to look at gaudy necklaces at Walgreen’s in my story, “Disassembly.”
Today, you can’t talk about Love, but you can find those moments that are emblematic of love and loss.
Today, you can’t talk about Loneliness, but you can write a scene involving a teenager standing outside the school dance, not joining in because he feels there is no one there to welcome him.
Today, you can’t talk about Yearning, but you can capture a moment of longing that will break your reader’s heart.
Today, you can’t talk about Evil, but maybe the best way to talk about Evil is to create monsters on the page. Maybe fairy tales are your way in. Or create an absurd story. Or a surreal one.
Give your readers the small, potent moments that vibrate with meaning and resonance and emotion. Give the world the story that only you can tell, dear writer. Use everything you’ve got.