In 2015, SmokeLong received 3,930 submissions and published 74 stories. We read a lot of flash fiction, and see a lot of trends. Many of the stories our editors receive come close, but they just don’t fit with the vibe of the issue. Or sometimes we just didn’t fall in love. Or sometimes, the story feels too similar to one we’ve just accepted.
The stories that grab our attention the fastest are ones that stand out from the pack because the subject matter is unique, or the form is different, or it’s just something, for whatever reason, that we rarely see or are craving more of.
With that in mind, we thought we’d share some story topics, styles, and themes that we would love to see more of in 2016, and some story topics and trends that, frankly, we’re a little sick of.*
*The disclaimer, of course, is that there are never any true deal-breakers. Just when we think we’ll never publish a story about dead dogs ever again, here comes the dead dog story that knocks our bedroom slippers off.
We want to see more:
Stories from international writers or set in places other than the U.S. Enough said. International writers, send us your stuff! We want to publish flash from all around the world. We’ll consider translations as well, as long as you have permission from the original author.
Stories about older people who don’t act stereotypically old and who aren’t super depressing. We see many stories about old people who just sit around waiting to die, or who are losing their memory as the story progresses. If you’re going to write about older people, make them as complex and dynamic as any other character. Check out Margot Taylor’s “A Question of Balance.”
Stories about sex that aren’t written like bad porn. There’s got to be compelling writing out there that looks at sex in interesting ways, right? Why don’t you send it our way?
Stories that hover the line between genre and literary fiction. We’re happy to consider science fiction, fantasy, crime, romance, western, and other genres, but we’re interested in genre-based flash that is rooted in language, imagery, character. No punchlines. Ground us in the world and make us care. We love “The Drive” by Gabrielle Sierra.
Stories that take huge leaps in time. It’s tough to do this in the word count restraints of flash fiction, but it’s so divine when it works. We like “Of Mice and Indians” by Toni Jensen, for example.
We want to see less:
Stories in which some sort of animal is inside someone’s body or body part. This one has been trending in our inbox for quite some time, believe it or not.
Stories about twentysomethings going through some kind of breakup or heartache. We get it. It’s good fodder for stories. But we’ve seen this subject so many times that it’s got to do something fresh and unusual to stand out.
Stories that use dead babies or animals as shock value.
Dialogue-heavy pieces that don’t develop into a story (only a scene). Stories with just dialogue always feel like they are floating in space, like the characters are speaking from a great black void.
Above all, what we’re always looking for, regardless of subject matter, form, or theme, are stories that, as our managing editor Christopher Allen says, use “thoughtful, breathtaking prose that astounds and frightens and makes you a bit angry that you didn’t write it.”