It’s easy to be confused about the appropriate genre classification for your very short work when you’re writing prose poetry or flash fiction. Our guidelines will help!
Flash Fiction: Flash fiction (along with its cousins micro fiction or even hint fiction) is fictional prose that’s very short on word count but big on ideas. Flash fiction short prose pieces range in word count depending on who is doing the counting—anywhere from less than 300 to up to 800 or even 1,000 words.
Flash fiction embraces the techniques of prose narratives and storytelling—as opposed to having a poetic sensibility. It is solidly prose. Sure, there may be moments of metaphor, abstraction, or elevated language, but ultimately, there’s a sense of the short story about it.
Read more: Short Prose Genres: Defining Essay, Short Story, Commentary, Memoir, and Mixed Genre
Prose Poetry: Wikipedia offers a distinct definition of prose poetry: “Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects.”
A prose poem falls somewhere in the gray area between a story and a poem. Prose poetry also tends to be very, very short, often (but not always) less than one page. Prose poetry blends the styles of poetry and narrative prose.
Who decides what genre to call your flash fiction work/prose poem?
Ultimately, it’s up to the writer to decide what to call a given work. For some people, the labels are superficial and not wildly important. If the work is good, it’s probably publishable.
So don’t stress too much over what to call your work, especially if you aren’t sure. Just trust the instinct that led you to create the piece to begin with and consider: Does your work straddle the line between poetry and prose? Then it’s a prose poem. Is it solidly narrative in its presentation? Then it’s probably flash fiction.
Hope this helps!
Photo by Karola Riegler Photography.
Question: What’s the last prose poem and/or flash fiction piece that you read?