May 5, 2013: Flash fiction is hard to do well, and romantic flash fiction is harder still. ‘One Page Love Story’ (OPLS) by Rich Walls faces this challenge, writing snippets of 250 or less words as individual installments. There’s no continuous narrative, nor recognizable characters. In many cases, people aren’t even named. A short conversation by a campfire, watching the stars together, a memory of how two people had their first meeting at a coffee shop.
Here’s the challenge; with so few words, flash fiction can’t afford to provide context. There’s no fleshing out the character, no description of the scene. The reader is left to fill in the blanks, and that makes it harder to develop an attachment. This makes romance in particular hard, because the attachment and familiarity the reader forms with the character or the scenario is how most authors will pull at the heartstrings. Speaking for myself, I didn’t feel any particular attachment to any characters in OPLS. That’s ok. It would be unreasonable to expect this, given the form the work takes.
What, then, can flash fiction in this vein do right? Good flash fiction will remain interesting enough that a reader will keep turning pages, while being varied enough that one or two pieces will strike a chord with a reader. Doing this with a genre like romance, where it’s so easy to be trite and cliched, is hard, especially if the author wants to stay on target and keep focused on their target audience.
Ok, I’ve framed my thoughts. The review itself: OPLS hits the mark. It’s not perfect, there’s a few pieces that made me roll my eyes and a few spots where I could see (or felt I could see) behind the curtain and glimpse the writer or the writer’s process, such as ‘Halfway’, where a/the writer talks about being at the halfway point for his journal of love stories, his desire to take a break and write a love story for his girlfriend. That said, the ‘pages’ were varied and clever enough that they weren’t painful for me to read (and I’m a grinch with a heart three sizes too small). Things change up from conversations to emails or letters, they move from discussions between romantic partners to people in love talking to friends, coworkers or professors. And, perhaps most important, there were definitely a handful of stories I felt were clever, or interesting; off the top of my head, ‘Bros’ and ‘Bad Comic’. Overall, the work remains on target in terms of voice, theme, and tone, to the point that I can see the target audience clearly (even if it’s not necessarily me).
In brief, for what it is, One Page Love Story does well. Those with a taste for vicariously experiencing romance or those who enjoy the little moments that surround being in love could well find One Page Love Story something to visit from time to time.
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