How to Write Flash Fiction

How To Write Flash Fiction

For many authors, flash fiction never comes to mind when it comes to starting new writing projects. Many writers jump straight to novels when it comes to expressing their creativity. While novels are great, flash fiction is an art form of its own that should not be ignored.

For those of you who have never heard of flash fiction, it is best described as an extremely short story under 1,500 words in length. Most times it is well under 1000 words.

Despite the small word count, flash fiction has a lot to offer. It traditionally contains a plot with a beginning, middle, and end as well as a character that goes through a change throughout that plot. It is like a short story in many ways, only way more condensed. 

Done well, flash fiction can make for a quick yet intriguing read.

Unfortunately, many writers are hesitant to write flash fiction. Some fear there is no market for it. Others find the short word count to be daunting.

While it can be tough to put together a complete flash fiction, this guide should make it much more manageable. 

flash fiction meme

Like writing a book, flash fiction can take a lot of practice to master. However, with time and effort, anyone can do it.

Pick a Strong Topic

The first step of writing flash fiction is to find a strong topic to write about. This is so with any writing. However, due to the brevity, the topic choice for flash fiction is even more important.

The topic needs to be strong enough to hold the reader’s interest. That being said it must also be simple enough to explore within a limited word count. Finding a topic that is basic enough to fit within 1500 words without being mundane can be tricky. Do not get discouraged if you have to throw some ideas around before you find a good one.

A good tip would be to pick one centralized event that the entire story can surround. This event should seem interesting enough to grab the reader’s attention on its own. This will make for a strong topic.

Keep in mind the story is short. You only need to hold the reader for a few hundred words.

Once you come up with some topics, pick one that leaves room for a bit of a surprise. The twist ending is a staple of flash fiction! You do not need to completely deceive the reader, but a topic that is too straightforward is not ideal. Pick something that allows you to keep the reader on their toes.

Keep Characters and Locations to a Minimum

If you pride yourself on being a great world builder or a genius at creating a complete cast of characters, flash fiction is going to be a good challenge for you. Building a character or setting up a location costs words. When you write flash fiction you do not have words to spare.

I am not saying you can not develop a character or setting. However, you should be conservative with these story elements.

For characters, it is very rare for flash fiction to use more than three. Unless you have a strong reason to include another, this is a good number to keep in mind.

As for settings, you only need one. Furthermore, if you require more you should limit the number of descriptions each location gets.

When it comes to flash fiction, less is more. Being able to portray one remarkable setting or document one character’s change from beginning to end is way more valuable than describing several bland people or generic places.

Avoid Wasting Words

I have already mentioned it, but every word in flash fiction is valuable. Since there are fewer words they individually hold much more power than those in a novel.

It is never good to make a novel wordier than it has to be. A small novel is better than one crammed with loads of filler content that serves no purpose. This is even more so with flash fiction.

You have to cut all the fat from the steak. Traditional writing sins like lengthy descriptions and info dumps are unacceptable. Every sentence must add to the story. Unless you are trying to draw emphasis to detail, nothing should be repeated.

You should also scan your story for sentences that can be deleted. If they do not serve a purpose to the story, cut them, even if they have a nice ring. Utilizing stronger words that portray more information in less space will take your story to the next level.

For example, replace “very mad” with “livid”.

Use Figurative Language

When you write a novel, you have plenty of powerful tools in your arsenal. Unfortunately, some of your best tools like world-building or emotional ties to the main character are nerfed when you write flash fiction. There are simply not enough words for them to shine like they usually do.

Fortunately, where they lose their strength, language becomes that much more powerful in flash fiction. You should use all the figurative language at your disposal to play on the reader’s emotions and build a powerful scene.

Here are some elements that take center stage in flash fiction.

  1. Similes
  2. Metaphors
  3. Hyperboles
  4. Personification
  5. Synecdoches
  6. Onomatopoeia

Using as many of these as possible can make your flash fiction sound more intriguing. These will help get the reader thinking, which is what you want.

figurative language meme

Figurative language evokes the reader’s emotions. It can be used to better set the tone of your story and give it a sense of identity. It could be argued that in flash fiction the beauty of the language is more important than the plot of the story itself.

Readers are investing in your words. 

The Last Words Should Be Powerful

You always want to end a story with a bang. Your last words are your final imprints on the reader. This last impression is especially important in a story where you did not have much time to make one.

While it may seem backward, your last words in the story should not be the end of the plot. A story that ends on the final word feels abrupt. 

Rather, your story’s final words should reflect on the end of the plot. This can be in the form of describing the after-effects of the climax or a reflection. Either way, these final words should bring into focus the theme of the story as a whole.

A good last line will stick with the reader. Ideally, it will give them a question to ponder in their head long after they finished reading. This question may even surround the morale of the story as a whole.

Leaving the reader with questions is always a good thing. That is so long as the conflict of your flash fiction has been resolved. The last thing you want to do is cheat the reader.

The Title is Key

I did not include this first because I believe a good flash fiction story reveals its title once it is written. By this I mean you should write at least some of your story before you brainstorm a title.

The title of any piece of fiction always seems important. It is always the first thing a reader sees when they find your story. However, in terms of flash fiction, it is almost a part of the story itself. 

In many cases, a title can set the tone or theme of flash fiction. In many great flash fiction pieces, the story seems incomplete or even out of context without the title. A great title will add to your story or even alter the reader’s perspective. This can be done by adding information that may not be included in the story itself. 

The title can also be used to deceive the reader. If you are considering writing a major twist, use the title to your advantage to subvert expectations.

There is so much you can do with a flash fiction title. Whatever you do, try not to use it to spoil the end. For some reason, a lot of flash fiction writers make the mistake of telegraphing their ending in the title.

Conclusion 

As you can see, flash fiction is by no means a condensed novel. While it is another way to tell a story, the skill set it requires is a lot different than those utilized for book writing. For instance, there is much more emphasis on language and brevity.

Like how writing a book is not for everyone, not all that try it will fall in love with flash fiction. Before you dismiss it, however, I encourage you to give it a shot. Who knows, you may fall in love with it. If you realize you hate it, it still helps develop skills that you can take advantage of when writing your novel.

One of the huge perks of these stories is they are quicker to finish than novels. Not that this makes them easier, but it lowers the amount of time it would typically take a writer to finish something. That feeling of accomplishment is priceless for any author, especially a new one.

At the very least you should give reading flash fiction a try. If you do not have time to read a book it can certainly satisfy your reading desires. It may even spark some much-needed writing motivation.

Author: Patrick Nilan

Just a young writer looking to take the mistakes I've made to aid the next generation.

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