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
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!