[Reading Room] Useless Things by Ariel Berry

Since we’re all about Flash Fiction here at StoryADay during February, I’m going to be highlighting some flash stories here in the Reading Room. This story comes from 100WordStory.com, a project from NaNoWriMo’s Grant Faulker, and partners.

teacups

Useless Things by Ariel Berry caught my eye because of its mix of big ideas and mundane moments in life. It does what short fiction is supposed to do: make us stop, figure out what’s happening, and think about how we might deal with a similar situation in our life.

Without giving too much away, this story touches on one of the issues of aging (or other medical complications), but does so in a surprisingly upbeat way. It manages to be bittersweet and though provoking without being depressing.

It also does something that I’m always advocating in short fiction: it uses the specific to illustrate the universal.

And it paints vivid images of a moment that represents a turning point, an acceptance or a rejection of a change.

Make It Flash

“Flash Fiction” is more than just short. It must ‘flash’ in the reader’s brain too. The best flash fiction contains, at its heart, a vivid image that stays with the reader, like an emblem or an icon for the story in their memory.

When I talk about creating a vivid image in flash fiction, it’s easy to assume I mean ‘use metaphors’, ‘write flowery descriptions’. But that’s not the case at all. In this story Berry describes an action that flashed in my mind, and became the ‘image’ that I remembered.

…when her grandmother’s teacups shattered on the tile floor….She wiped up the mess, then tied the wet washrag in her hair.

Ariel Berry, Useless Things

There’s more to the story, of course, but that’s the image that anchors it in my memory.

Read this story at 100WordStory.com or buy the book


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