Three Flash Metafictions

no one b&w1. What Do Those Characters Want?        

Well, I’ll tell you: They want to know why some characters get long stories while they get Micro, Sudden, Flash. Why some characters get cities or towns, streets, homes with dog houses and dogs that howl in the night. Why those homes have rooms that matter, dining rooms where plates are broken or someone opens an aged Bordeaux, bedrooms where lust gives way to murder or love. They want scenes awash in back story, then the rush of rapids, steep falls, or floods. They want it to lead to something that is something else. But not in a Flash.

2. What My Characters Do in Their Spare Time is Out of My Hands

I give them names and problems and try to set them straight on the big things in life. It’s the little things they do that trip me up: they flood their basements, their car gets towed, and what accounts for that bad haircut? They change their names mid-story. Sit around in sweats all day. Adopt too many cats. At night they wait tables at Mac’s or Bert’s BBQ. I have to track down their music on YouTube, learn the new word for marijuana. They fuck like it’s no big thing. They act like they know something I don’t.

3. This Writer Talks Back

Flash isn’t selling you short, and long is not a reliable sort of justice. I can make you thin and worthy as a dime, or flat and stupid as a plank, or as puffed up as a hot air balloon. Size does not matter. Oh, right: sex. So I’ll let you say it: size matters—there. I’ll even be creative with your attribution: whispered, called, screamed, blurted out, or said. But I’ll keep the story short. I’ll make it sudden. I always get the last word.


Pamela Painter’s third story collection is all Flash Fiction, titled Wouldn’t You Like to Know. Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Narrative, New World Writing, Ploughshares, New Flash Fiction Review, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others, and reprinted in numerous anthologies. She is also co-author of What If?  Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Painter lives in Boston and teaches in the Emerson College MFA Program.

Photo Credit: moominsean

2 Responses to “Three Flash Metafictions”

  1. Paul Beckman says:

    A “Class” in 3 paragraphs. Fantastic!

  2. David James says:

    Simply superb work. Questions answered with stories.

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