You do not have to try
Going back to the flash fiction example again,
“An inattentive, transient jackass says, – “Check it” – high-pitched, estrogenic sound awkwardly steam from thick, too-big lips covering precarious tan teeth. Mirrored sunglasses sterilize eyes plunging transgressor back to fatigued, faded skin, unkempt hair – a brain of questions, comments, demands, justifications – stayed verbally, exposed physically – “Is there a problem?” Pigments, parchments, binding, images relapse then release ribbed steel, scuffed plastic, relabeled boxes reskinned with tape, twine, and plastic that meld into a horizontal borough in motion, eclectic and naïve to the pigment of deities” (Miller, 2012).
There is no ‘try’ in the readers’ brains – they are forced to access the associations they hold for each word or each set of words (depending on how a reader takes them off the page) but by doing this how can it be guaranteed they end up with ‘airport’? It is not guaranteed and it does not matter because flash fiction is not driven primarily by plot. What? Take the first sentence of the flash fiction example, “An inattentive, transient jackass says, – “Check it” – high-pitched, estrogenic sound awkwardly steam from thick, too-big lips covering precarious tan teeth” (Miller, 2012).
Now there is nothing in there that guarantees these words will be associated with ‘airport’ in the mind of the reader but it is an absolute (almost) that these words will be associated with something or some things; meaning some associations are becoming active in the minder’s brain. However, there will be someone who reads the example and nothing is accessed, no associations are activated – and that is fine; this piece is not for them. However, for those for whom it does it could be an assortment of associations that become activated. For one reader it might be their uncle Eli, for another a security guard at a concert she attended in the eleventh grade of high school, and for yet another, well this can go on forever but some memory(s) or piece(s) of knowledge will be activated by the sentence. If the line does not activate associations the reader has which are connected to ‘airport’, that is fine because it does not have to – what it has to do is activate the associations the reader has with these words. This for them will be the primary association but then whatever this might also be associated with are the secondary associations. For instance, if the example made a reader think about her uncle then all of the associations of him are also activated or if it was a high school concert memory then everything connected to that is activated. Most importantly, the series of words used by the writer to express the character’s movement through an airport were done to explain just what a prose piece does – to allow the reader into the world and mind of the character. If the character in the flash fiction piece is in an airport but the reader associates all of the story elements to something else that is fine because whatever the reader associated it to is associated with the same memories and knowledge for the reader as the airport is for the character in the story.