I’m a tight writer (I’m cheap too, but in this case, I mean no spare words), so short-short fiction has always fascinated me. But deadlines for novel-length fiction means experimenting with short has remained on  a way-back burner. But I just turned in a book, and social isolation has me casting around for something to stay busy so I don’t kill Alpha Dog.

I thought I’d pass on what I’ve uncovered about this type of writing.

What is flash fiction? Definitions vary, but generally, they’re complete stories of anywhere from 100 to 1,500 words. All genres lend themselves well to this type of story.

How do you write it? There are some guidelines:

  • Few characters – Many I’ve read only have one, but you don’t have time for more than three. Make them count with good, short descriptions and unique voices
  • Show vs tell – short-short means your words have to do double duty
  • Verbal efficiency and tone – Margie Lawson is the master here. Use her power words, backloading, alliteration and other rhetorical devices to set the tone throughout
  • Big impact in few words: think Hemingway’s, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
  • Use few elements, but use them wisely for best impact
  • Complete story. Beginning/middle/end. Shouldn’t leave the reader wondering what happens next
  • Focus one conflict – one theme – in one scene
  • The first, last line and title are crucial
  • Surprise the reader

More wisdom from STACE BUDZKO

  • Start at the flashpoint –By definition Flash begins at the moment of conflict, when all the action is nearly complete. Think: the final gesture of a love affair, or the start of a good old-fashioned gang fight. All of this is to say we need to avoid preambles or introductions (unless working on a specific conceit).
  • Focus on the powerful image(s)– Find one or more powerful images to focus your story on. A war-torn street. An alien sunset. A Going Out of Business sign. They say a picture worth a thousand words. Paint a picture with words. It doesn’t hurt to have something happen inside that picture. It is a story after all.
  • Hit them where it hurts– Go for an ending that offers an emotional impact. As flash writers, we are in the punch-in-the-gut business. Play against expectations with a sense of narrative mystery or devastating twist, a poignant implication or declarative last sentence that leaves the reader breathless, and going back for more.

Why write it?

  • Get your name out there
  • People can read it fast, so they’re more likely to read
  • You can write it fast
  • Sharpen your skills, learn to write tight
  • Can count toward membership in professional writing organizations
  • You can use it as free content for marketing
  • Competitions
  • Inspiration

Example: Warning – the visual is a bit brutal

Forecast by Nik Eveleigh

The wrinkled man pokes a finger in to the slew of guts strewn across the parched ground. The day-dead rabbit that had previously contained them lies on its side three feet away facing east.

A drag of the finger further displaces the ropes of intestine. Cocking his head the man lifts the finger to his lips and tastes. He hops from foot to foot and rolls his eyes in rapture.

Several minutes pass before his eyes drop and regain their focus. With a nod he creaks to his feet and turns to face the silent, expectant crowd.

“Rain. Two Days.”

I’m all in. How about you? Have you ever written any Flash Fiction? Share in the comments!

5 Comments

  1. ROSALIND FULVIO on April 6, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    Hi Laura, I really enjoy your blogs. Now i have a writing question. When you have finished your first draft of a novel, I’m curious how many times you proofread it before you give it to an editor or whomever is next in the chain to publishing. Thank you, and cheers!
    Rosalind Fulvio

    • Laura Drake on April 7, 2020 at 5:33 am

      Thanks for writing, Rosalind! I’m different than most. I write about 500-700 words a day. The next day, I warm up by editing what I wrote the day before. When a chapter is done, I send it to my critters (critique partners), edit based on their input. That’s it. no more editing until the publishers editor gets hold of it.

      It’s okay to do this differently. I know an author that goes through 10 full manuscript edit/rewrites until she finds the kernel of the story she meant to write to begin with.

      The only right way is the way that works for you. Write on!

  2. ROSALIND FULVIO on April 10, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Thank you, Laura. And you said it! The best way is what works for you! I co-write with Patricia Obermeier Neuman, and she is a fantastic editor. We are working on our seventh novel in a murder mystery series. She lives in Wisconsin, and i live in Texas, and although we haven’t seen each other for a few years, we skype a lot, especially now while we are both in isolation. We are currently working on what we hope is close to a final draft, with daily skyping. Since we are also best friends, we do have lots of laughs!
    Stay safe, and best wishes to you.
    Roz (pen name Rosalind Burgess)

    • Laura Drake on April 10, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Finding constant writing buddies is so hard, Roz – I’m happy you found yours!

  3. Flash Fiction - Just for Fun - Laura Drake on August 31, 2020 at 3:07 am

    […] wrote a post a while ago, on why you should write Flash Fiction – you can read it HERE. I enjoy the heck out of it – it’s like cleansing my palette between […]

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