Flash Fiction Bonbons
There’s something sweetly satisfying about 100 Word Story. From the design, the content, the concept, the site acts like a bonbon box of fiction, presenting bite-sized prose that linger long past consumption.
Take, for example, Thasia Frank’s “Sideshow,” which utilizes the 100-word limit by engulfing the senses with lines such as “I heard this first, she whispers to the popcorn-scented dark.” Then there’s the rhythmic alliterative play in Jeff Friedman’s “Good Sense,” where lines such as “Never paddle in a puddle or peddle your paddle in a river or split hairs over a fallen petal” demand savoring and repeating.
The site truly acts as a chocolate box of stories, organized in a grid: the title, author, photo, and first sentences of the story teasing the eye and intriguing one’s appetite. The photos too are so well chosen for each piece, appearing almost like a catalog, allowing your eyes to skim and wander, before plucking a promising piece of prose. I don’t mean to dwell so long on chocolate—though that is my mental auto-pilot—but as a fresh fan of flash fiction, the presentation of the site really struck me as a great way to get others interested into the form, much like a Whitman’s Sampler.
The website accepts essays and prose pieces. They range from playing within a moment as in Jonathan Starke’s essay “Skinning the Gloves,” a piece which brings you inside the head of a boxer dwelling on a relationship, to glossing over time such as “Habit,” a 100-word capsule by HC Hsu that describes a couple’s fifty years together with one habit. This amazing piece blooms at the end with a slight turn of narration as the lady of the couple relates the habit to the narrator, and it ends with a zinger, a perfect punch line as she admits to the imperfections of a relationship as well as the beauty of it.
Pieces like Hsu’s standout among the nuggets of stories on 100 Word Story mainly because of that zinger. With a hundred words, many of the pieces have that lingering recoil after such a small punch, achieved through honing in on emotion or an idea. Many of the stories deal with relationships, familial or romantic, and they lyrically capture a feeling or mood, a character, an object or a situation with minute detail up until a final catharsis or epiphany.
However, these obsessions from the many narrators begin to blend into one another, and those stories that tried to achieve more in a small space ended up being the standouts. Small touches like naming a character or including dialogue distinguished a handful of pieces amidst the many nameless narrators and a fair amount of interiority. It would be nice to see more such touches, if only to add to the variety of presentation.
Still, variety does exist on the site. With the limit of 100 words, it’s impressive to see the mixture of literary styles, from subtle humor, irony, experimentation to traditional prose. “An Interview with Tommy ‘The Torch’” by Todd Tavolazzi sets a scene, shows a named character and includes dialogue right at 100 words. Then there’s Mark Bacon’s “Just An Accident,” which uses exposition, creates two characters and covers a large expanse of time. This is one of my favorites on the site because of how Bacon uses the limit of 100 words, utilizing the idea of the unsaid, enabling the reader to fill in the gaps that would surely eat up his word count. Stories such as these that cover a wide scope of time in only a few sentences or that play with distillation and omission become fascinating studies in flash fiction.
Of course, writers like Bacon have experience with this form. But there is a wide range of contributors on the site from students (from recent grads to those with MFAs), published writers with stories and books out, editors of journals, professors, to those who just want to write. This mix of contributors shows an acceptance from those veterans of the form to those who want to try something new.
I always find reading flash fiction inspiring. In such a small space, there’s the careful consideration of each word, the weight and rhythm of the prose, and the balance of the story to take into account, not to mention the tone of the narrator. 100 Word Story offers an amazing set of bite-sized fiction that will inspire you to try it out too.