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The Art of Flash Fiction

by Gloria Watts

The flash fiction (or short-short story) market is very popular, and writing flash fiction is the quickest way to get published online.

Flash fiction stories are short-short stories that usually range from 50 to 1,000 words. Sometimes called ‘fast fiction’, ‘sudden fiction’, ‘mini-fiction’, or ‘immediate fiction’, they are complete stories with a beginning, middle and an end. The shortest stories, called ‘micro’, ‘quick’, ‘furious’, ‘skinny’, or ‘postcard’ fiction, are usually 50 to 100 words or less.

Flash fiction is fun to write. Writing flash fiction helps to strengthen and develop writing skills by challenging the writer to stay within the word limit and still produce a story that contains the basic elements: a character or characters, conflict, and resolution.

If you want to write flash fiction, keep it simple. Focus on the moment and create one memorable scene. Start your story in the middle, start with the action. Say only what’s necessary to move the story along; much of the story line can be hinted at or implied. Use strong verbs and the active voice. Cut out all unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and explanations; the reader will fill in the blanks.

  1. Keep it simple. Focus on a brief interesting idea or event – a moment in time.

  2. Jump in. Start with action – no preamble, find a good lead sentence or start with dialogue.

  3. Find the right words and add some conflict. Write tight; make every word count: imply, using words and actions to show pain, anxiety, happiness, fear, or excitement. Add conflict — every story needs conflict — physical or emotional, internal or external, pile it on; be bold.

  4. Keep the reader hooked. Lure the reader on, keep them guessing until the final paragraph.

  5. End with a twist. Surprise with the last sentence or last few sentences. Make your story memorable.

What if you end up with too many words? Cut out all adverbs. Instead of saying ‘he ran quickly’ say, ‘he ran’. Instead of ‘a smile lit up her face’ say, ‘she smiled’.

Edit. Cut all unnecessary words, those words that add nothing to the story, the conflict or the ending. If you still have a complete story, a beginning, middle and end you’ve just written flash fiction.

Further Reading: Writing flash fiction using bubble diagrams.

Copyright © 2006 by Gloria Watts

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