One of the most dispiriting and boring conversations in the literary community evolves from the understandable need to identify the difference between the prose poem, short short story (flash fiction), and a short story. It’s almost as empty as our need to talk about creative non-fiction as transgressing boundaries.
Or perhaps even the most worthless statement: sometimes you need to lie in order to arrive at the truth! Wow.
And let’s face it, anyone who tells you to lie these days is a Republican. Or they come from bad parents who never taught you any morals.
The genres’ definitions have nothing ultimately to do with word count, or the poetic quality of the sentences, or the emphasis on character over lyricism.
Word count is also offensive. Anyone who wants to make literature into something mathematical IS EVIL AND CORRUPT.
The definitions of these three genres has to do with The Look of the poem. It wholly has to do with the visual. Plain and simple. You don't even need to read the prose poem, the short short story, or a short story to determine how it should be labeled.
A PROSE POEM=a block of text that does not have ANY indentions. Even if there is dialogue. No indentions. No indentions to signify that someone is talking or that someone now new is talking.
A SHORT SHORT STORY (FLASH FICTION)=It must contain two characteristics:
A.) An immediate indention. The rest of the story doesn't need to contain any other identions.
B.) It must be no longer than one page. For a piece of writing to “flash,” the spectacle (the visual) of that flash may only happen once. If you turn the page, that causes two flashes. And therefore, should be called Fiction Containing More than One Flash; therefore, cancelling the name flash fiction. It automatically becomes a short story.
A SHORT STORY=It must contain two characteristics:
A.) The first line is indented.
B.) It must move onto the next page.
I offer these definitions as guidance to the fun if naive discussion occurring at HTML GIANT (which is my most recent discovery on the Internet, also my new favorite):
thinking about "flash fiction"
What We Talk About When We Try to Talk about What to Call The Stuff We Write
I’ll leave the rest of the work to other people. I did my work. If I’m stealing someone else’s definitions (or missed an identical comment to my post), go ahead and sue me.