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Sequentiality as Flash Structure

December 25, 2012

Slide1 Because of their brevity, flash narratives permit different structural forms than longer fiction. One of my favorite flash structures uses repetitive sequences borrowed from the lyric or ballad. It emphasizes refrains and repeated verses. In some recent flashes that have caught my eye, for example, the story is structured around all the weird places the writer or protagonist (isn’t the first-person speaker of flash always implicitly the writer?) has woken up in her life–all the strange beds beside all those memorably unexpected co-sleepers. Another one was modeled after the trope of anaphora from lyrical poetry, where every new unit of prose was set off by the same repeated phrase, this one about many different people, things, or entities that were the first in a series.

I’ve been meaning to write a flash that relies upon a similar structure as these, one based upon sequence, list-format, and repetition. But I can’t decide which from my brainstorm session to pursue. Here are some of the possibilities:

** The thirteenth thing (a variation on what the continental philosopher would call das dritten ding). Everything described would be a different thirteenth thing from a single evening  experienced either by different people or by the same single consciousness. The thirteenth customer, the policeman’s thirteenth ticket of the night, the thirteenth time that noise came from the basement…

** The last time a series of different characters thought of something purely euphoric like rolling down a grassy hill in summertime and what was happening in their lives (all quite unrelated to the activity) when they were thinking of it.

** An old check-out card found in a small regional public library, the kind that had patron’s signatures on it and kept in that paper pocket at the back of the book. It would be a memory cache of how that book struck those people–again, mostly through experiences having little to do with books or reading.

I could add more to this list, but I’ll stop for now. Sequence, of course, is no short cut to a good story. My goal in whatever sequential logic I choose will be to offer a clever structure for the reader that does not sacrifice the essentials for efficiency. All of the Dave’s I’ve known in my life wouldn’t want that anyway.

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