Luck and Uniqueness
Of course, this reaction is clichéd and smells like a set up, and it is, but that does not deny it a measure of validity. Neither does this example mean that the girl is even conscious of the connection between the painting, all the other mental associations she has in her brain between it and the day her father gave her that red bicycle, and then those connecting it to her father dying. She does not have to be conscious of her entire catalogue of mental associations and indeed, it would be unbelievable if she were.
Notes on a Palm-of-the-Hand Story
My mother uses her fingernail to scratch Chinese characters into the palm of her hand. She does it, she says, so she won’t forget how to write.
When Chinese meet in the street and fail to understand each other’s speech, they too resort to palm-of-the-hand writing.
Continuing on with the example of our little girl and her bicycle but now twenty-some years in the future when she is a young woman in her mid-twenties recently graduated from her undergraduate studies and presently taking a year off to enjoy herself and think before deciding what to do for graduate school. During this time, she has taken a job as an assistant to an assistant at an art gallery, which while not paying very well, does at least somewhat satisfy her desire for an interesting workplace while she mulls her study options. Then one random day at work, she is helping to install a new exhibition of a young artist whose work is very heavily tilted towards the abstract.
The Formation of Concepts and Associations
This premise of association is extremely important for understanding how flash fiction works on a cognitive level because it is the knowledge and memories and, most importantly, the associations a person has in their brain that will form the tableau into which a piece of flash fiction will enter and start to work. To understand how this works, and to avoid the debate of empty or pre-loaded, a young girl of five will do the trick.
I thought we were talking about how Flash Fiction works?
In flash fiction, the soil is the brain of the reader and the associations held in it, and just as the farmers’ in the 1390s needed to know about the conditions of the soil to get their crops growing, a writer of flash fiction needs to understand the brain into which their work is going. To begin, it is necessary to understand how the brain is when life begins.