July 27, 2009

Flash Memoir

The following fragment is something I sketched out while working on a prompt for the flash fiction workshop I took two weeks ago. I like the idea of writing memoir in the flash form, and it's something I've been experimenting with over the past few months. The ideas are still rough, but I like where this is going. I plan to expand it in the near future.

What I think is most important about the flash genre is that it is capable of giving us an entire story while only showing us a moment. With this in mind, I've been working on an idea that I call flash memoir, in which you give an event in your life in the flash form. Unlike traditional memoir, where you arrange a large story thematically (your abusive childhood, your struggle with cancer, the birth of your child, your journey to marriage, your spiritual awakening, your career as an activist), flash memoir is made up of disconnected moments and events told in the flash form. At the end of the flash memoir collection, the reader should be able to glean insight about the writer's life based on these small impressions. Each story gets just one moment, and then it's done; no conclusion or afterword filled with self-reflection, no attempt to tie everything together, no insistence on attempting to give life meaning. Instead, just a presentation of brief, important moments that have shaped the author. Life doesn't have neat conclusions; our personal narratives are not easy to wrap up. And flash memoir doesn't attempt reconciliation; it merely presents the brief actions and events that shaped us. Flash memoir makes even the smallest lives seem important. You don't need to have amassed a life of grand gestures or ideas; you just need to have lived. We may not all have big adventures – but even the smallest moments can have significance, and what looks to us to be a boring life may in fact have been full of quiet yet transcendental wonders.


stu said...

Is this what they mean by "flashes of memory" then?

Dorla Moorehouse said...

Perhaps. I really hadn't thought of using that term, but it's apt!