Flash fiction is just what its name implies: fiction that happens in a flash. Usually clocking in at several hundred words or less, Flash Fiction (sometimes called microfiction or sudden fiction) is a special kind of short story writing practiced by those who truly believe that brevity is the soul of wit. I discovered Flash Fiction when I was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. One of my creative writing colleagues brought in a piece to share with us as a writing prompt at our weekly Writer’s Circle meeting. I was immediately enthralled. I had never thought that an author could write something so succinct and yet so moving. I’d also always assumed that short stories had to be a certain length to be considered ‘real fiction’ – it never occurred to me that a story could be complete and be less than a page long at the same time.
After trying my own hand at writing these ‘slice of life’ shorts, I’ve never looked back. I’ve written countless pieces of flash fiction for this very site and find the format intellectually challenging and personally fulfilling.
Interested in trying it for yourself but not sure where to start? Here are a handful of things to keep in mind as you’re diving into the shallow end of the word pool.
5 Flash Fiction Freebies
- When writing Flash, pick a moment and start in the middle of it
Your reader doesn’t need to know about everything leading up to the car accident, or the entire conversation before the words “I want a divorce” were spoken. Those details are less important than the main action itself. Remember that the moment you start in should be something interesting and vital.
- When writing Flash, keep your cast of characters small
A flash story should have one or two characters tops. Any more than that and you’re not going to be able to do anyone justice and your story is going to (by necessity alone) stretch way beyond the perimeters of flash. If the story doesn’t stretch, things are going to start to get messy.
- When writing Flash, be prepared to edit
You will write long. Everybody does. Even if your first draft is only a few hundred words, you’ll find upon editing that there were words you could cut and sentences you could rework to shorter and greater effect. You should be prepared to edit no matter what style of writing you’re doing, but when writing flash, you should be especially prepared to cut. Kill your darlings was said for flash fiction writers, I’m sure of it.
- When writing Flash, take time with your title
You only have so much space to get the message of your story across. The title of your piece can do some of that work for you without taking up valuable word count. Put some real thought into why you will call your piece what you will call it. Choose wisely.
- When writing Flash, have a good time
Make sure you’re writing something you would want to read! If you’re not having a good time writing, take a break and come back to the story later. Writing is work, sometimes it’s hard work, but the end goal should always be to have a good time.