As more people read literary journals and books on their mobile devices, flash fiction is becoming increasingly popular. But with stories getting shorter and shorter, it may be tricky to determine if you’ve actually written flash fiction or a prose poem. At Writer’s Relief, we know the structures of these two genres can be somewhat similar. When you’re submitting work to literary journals, it’s important to know if your piece meets the proper guidelines for a prose poem or flash fiction—or you risk getting an automatic rejection. Here’s how to tell if your writing is flash fiction or a prose poem.
Flash Fiction Vs. A Prose Poem
What Is Flash Fiction? Flash fiction includes micro fiction, “twitterature,” mini-mini fiction, and other very short fiction that ranges in word count from 50 words to approximately 1,000 words.
Flash fiction stories have the usual qualities of storytelling, such as character, plot, tension, emotional arcs, dialogue, etc. They are simply condensed into a shorter length.
What Is Prose Poetry? A prose poem is not written in verse lines but in traditional sentences (prose). However, a prose poem will still feature poetic symbols, metaphors, figures of speech, heightened imagery, and emotional effects. Prose poetry is also short, usually no more than one page.
Seems simple enough to determine which genre you’ve written in, right? Now, imagine the two interlocking circles of a Venn diagram. In one circle you have a very brief short story with all the proper elements: it’s focused on plot and character and hits the typical story essentials of rising action, climax, and resolution.
In the other circle you have a different short piece: the prose poem. Here, the writing is focused on sound, images, and the emotions being evoked—and is entirely devoid of any typical storyline.
Writing with a narrative slant will sit comfortably in the flash fiction circle. A piece that leans more heavily on poetic techniques will be in the prose poem circle.
Where the two circles overlap in the center is where flash fiction and prose poetry share common traits. You might have flash fiction utilizing poetic qualities, or a prose poem could have some sort of narrative center. This is where writers may become confused as to which genre their work falls into.
While some flash fiction is clearly not a prose poem and some prose poems are clearly not flash fiction, if you’ve written something that lands in the middle of the two and can’t decide what to call it—trust your instincts. Does your work move forward mainly by narrative forces or mainly by poetic forces? Knowing the answer to this question will help you place your work in the most appropriate genre.
When you’re ready to submit your flash fiction or prose poem, be sure to read each journal’s guidelines so you send the right type of work to the appropriate markets. If you’re still not sure which literary journals are the best match for your work, you can turn to the research experts at Writer’s Relief! We can help you target the very best literary journals for your writing and boost your odds of getting an acceptance.
Question: Have you written flash fiction or prose poetry? What was the word count?