How to Write Flash Fiction #WritingCommunity

How to Write Flash Fiction

So you have a story idea, you’re super pumped to get started, and you scour the web for possible publication sites only to notice that the magazine of your dreams wants flash fiction. But you’ve never written flash fiction? What do you do?

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how your desire to write flash ignited, but if you want to master the short short story, I’m here to help. First, let’s start with definitions. Flash fiction is typically a story around 1000 words. Each publication may have a little different guidelines on word count, but if you’re looking for a ball park number, aim for 1000. You may also see submission calls for drabbles. These are super fun and challenging, because you can only use 100 words to tell a story. No more, no less. But let’s get into more specifics:

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  1. Short doesn’t mean less. Every story, whether flash fiction or a drabble or a manuscript, must have the fundamental core points of storytelling. At the bare minimum, you need a protagonist, an antagonist, some sort of choice that needs to be made, a climax and a resolution.

  2. Cut the fluff. This is a good lesson in all writing and why I love flash. It forces you to cut all the fluffy bits of text. If it doesn’t move the story forward, cut it. If it’s excessive, cut it. If it’s redundant, cut it. Keep it crisp and tight.

  3. Be smart when it comes to adjectives. I like giving some sort of physical descriptor for my protagonist, even in a drabble. But words are limited, so be smart with placement. While a manuscript allows you to paint a large picture, flash forces you to focus on the most important aspects. For example, if it’s important that you’re protagonist wears a red rain coat, focus solely on that. Skip the larger description you might include in a manuscript - her clothing, her hair color, her eye color, her height.

  4. Learn how to “Show” not “Tell”. This will help more than you know. For example, if your protagonist is a child and it’s important that we, the readers, know this, everything she does has to mimic her childlike state. Don’t spend words telling the reader that she’s five years old. Show us in the way her dialogue invokes a childlike innocence. Then, use that dialog to move the story forward, that way you’ve not only added to the plot, but you’ve “shown” your protagonist’s characteristics.

  5. Write an actual ending. Since flash is nothing more than a very short manuscript, don’t flake out on the ending just because words are limited. If you’re not into cliffhanger endings in manuscripts, don’t do it in a flash piece. If you wouldn’t want to read a manuscript that turned out to be a giant metaphor, don’t do it in a flash piece. If you get annoyed reading a book only to discover the protagonist is in a mental hospital at the final paragraph, don’t do it in a flash piece. Don’t sacrifice any part of the story just to hit a word count.

If you want to see some flash I’ve written, head over to my publication section. There you can find anthologies I’ve been published in, alongside other awesome horror/scifi writers. Or just do a google search. Either way, give flash fiction a try.