Writing Flash Fiction

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I have to admit that the thought of writing flash fiction was a bit intimidating to me at first. How can you get an entire story in a few short paragraphs? For a person of many words, the very idea that I could edit myself and still convey the perfect message seemed to be a daunting task, an uphill battle. However, if I can do it, believe me, so can you.

First, you have to get an understanding of what constitutes flash fiction. In most circles it is a complete fictional story told in 1000 words or less. It’s more than a short story; it’s a short, short story. You may come across requests for flash fiction which limits the word count to 750, 500, 250 or even fewer. Find your comfort zone. For me 500 words stories are my preferred length, but using more or less words can be fun and often I challenge myself by adjusting the word count.

The next thing to remember is that flash fiction pieces should also contain the same elements that are expected in a full length fiction piece – it just has to be more concise. The story should have a main character, conflict, obstacle and resolution. The key is to make sure you don’t fall into the “complication trap”. The conflict, obstacle or resolution can be subtle and the main character does not have to be multifaceted to make the story compelling. Flash fiction is more events driven than character driven. It’s about a moment in time and the conflict and resolution is for that moment, not necessarily forever. Once you understand your limitations of words and details, you must then embrace the strength of flash fiction, and the strength is, ironically enough, the limitation of words and details.

Another flash fiction rule is to keep reminding yourself that all the extra beautiful words are more for you the writer, than it is for the reader. It may be important to you that the reader knows:

“His eyes were dark as coal and he looked at you as if he was trying to find your soul, steal it and then sell it back to you.” Or

“It was rumored that he once killed a man just because he didn’t like his big, toothy smile. Now anyone who feared death could no longer bring themselves to smile as long as he was around.”

You can come up with a lot of words to convey the essence of the man to your reader, using forty or fifty precious words in the process. Or you could edit yourself and your beautiful, artistic descriptions by using a line like:

“He was intensely mean, souless man. Everyone feared him”

That just might do the trick for the reader and your story.

Finally, you should know where the story is going before you start. You not only have to get to an ending but you have to get there quickly. So write the complete story and then began editing. It can be fun and challenging so practice, practice, practice!

**** This content was written by Nina Guilbeau. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.