Flash Fictional Pointillism

Posted on May 22, 2010


I am interested in the journey from flash fiction to the novel.

I am not just interested in the journey as a scholar would be, I am interested in undertaking said journey myself. I don’t even know if it’s possible – I’m not aware of any novelist I admire who went by that route. Except perhaps Nabokov who wrote his novels from index cards, in fragments (cp. “The Original of Laura”).

John Gardner, in “The Art of Fiction”, mentions “fictional pointillism” as a possible structure for large-scale works and gives Coover as an example for a writer who mastered this form – Cortazar comes to my mind as well – what Gardner says is worth reproducing here at length:

In this form the writer lets out his story in snippets, sometimes called ‘crots’, moving as if at random from one point to another, gradually amassing the elements, literal and symbolic, of a quasi-energetic action. No rules governs the organization of such a work but that the writer be a prose-poet of genius. Even if he has some intellectual system for arranging his crots, the basic principle of his assembly is feeling: He shuffles and reshuffles his fragments to find the most moving of possible presentations, and he achieves his climaxes not, as in linear fiction, by the gelling of key events, but by poetic force. Depending, as it does, so largely on texture – having abandoned structure in the traditional sense (events causally related and presented more or less in sequence) – the mode runs the great risk of overrichness, the writer’s tendency to push too hard, producing an effect of sentimentality. The great advantage, on the other hand, is the necessary focus on imagery whereby repeated iages accrue greater and greater psychological and symbolic force.

It does sound as if this is something that I may use for my own journey to the novel. Perhaps other flash fictionistas feel similarly. I believe that my own fiction so far avoids the abovementioned risk by being humorous and by having a tendency to pulsate even in short bursts of 100-200 words (here’s an example). When there is no pulsating, no coming back to boring ground, you get pure Pynchon where every line counts but there’s also no relief ever from the poetic persuasion of the author.

So – watch me shuffle my flash cards at the usual place for the next year or so.

Posted in: writerlyAdvice