How to Write Flash Fiction

It is believed that you need a special kind of writing talent if you want to start writing flash fiction, since you need to be concise, concentrated and emotional at the same time. There is no doubt writing a flash fiction story requires a lot of practice and skill. However, here is an ultimate guide on how to write flash fiction stories.

Flash fiction is a style of literature characterized by extreme briefness. Though there’s no fixed length, stories that are 1000 words or less are mainly called flash fiction stories. Some literary critics believe that stories from 1000 to 2000 words also belong to this category. Whatever the definition is, flash fiction is characterized by extreme brevity and emotional tension.

If you have an aim to master writing short stories and to impress your readers in six words, like Hemingway did in his famous short story, you need to practice some additional skills which will contribute to your astonishing story.

Tips for Flash Fiction Writing

1) Focus on small things. Details are what make flash fiction stories so impressively vivid and real. They cause readers’ minds to click, like “I know that feeling.” Details make readers think of them being in similar situations as described in your story. They also cause associations and thoughts, and this is your main aim: to grab the reader’s attention in less than 1000 words.

2) Create the mood. Minor details also preform one more important function in writing flash fiction—they act as a tool of suggestion. You don’t have enough room for lengthy descriptions and characters’ thoughts. A precise detail in a character’s description can say a lot more than two or three pages of writing. Actually, this is an amazing thing about flash fiction: you create a sketchy character and describe one point in his or her life, but it still works to flesh out that character and his or her emotions and struggles. At first, you may need some practice learning how to create a mood by few words.

3) Pun and puzzle. People love that feeling when they understand a joke or solve a little mental puzzle (e.g. my father’s son = me). This makes us feel clever, special and smart, and probably is the reason why people love jokes at all. You need to master the ability of creating such mind tricks for your readers to make them feel involved and exited. Think of your story as of a detective story, with you being a criminal who tries to hide something, and the reader being an investigator. Just don’t hide too much, give enough hints so the readers can understand your message, and won’t be left wondering “What was that all about?”

4) Be surprising. This requires some outside of the box thinking. Many guides advise to kill your hero, since there’s nothing more dramatic than a sudden death. While that can be true, there’s nothing more trite than a sudden death.

This is a popular cliche, which is really fun to break. Put your character in a dangerous situation, make some hints so that readers (and other characters, if any) will think that he or she is dead, and then end your story with a bang by revealing that the character is alive. Here you can use the previous pun method: don’t state the “happy ending” directly—let your readers guess and play a clever mind game with them. Take it from us, they’ll appreciate it.

Steps in Flash Fiction Writing

Some authors prefer the inspirational method where you just get an idea, sit down, and express it—forty minutes of passionate writing and you are done. This method may be good for practicing and, of course, you are free to write when the muse comes to you. However, flash fiction can be really meticulous, since you have to put a lot of meaning in a short piece of text.

  1. Dive into the action. Remember that you don’t have time for an introduction part, where you can say something like: “It was a rainy Monday morning…” Also, do a little planning before you start writing to put together all the events and don’t make any factual mistakes (like your character has brown eyes and then they are suddenly blue).
  2. Divide the story into three parts and make sure that every part is complete. The only thing you can leave open is the end, but don’t make your readers wonder, “did the author miss something in the middle?” You story needs to be super-logical. Think of it as of a math task: it’s a mystery to be solved, though you solve it not by guessing, but by applying logic.
  3. Start the writing process. Now its time for the creative process itself on how to write a flash fiction story. The only piece of advice that could be given here is write as it flows. You will improve your skills and develop your own unique style with time. Perhaps another good thing to do is to use emotionally charged adjectives to make your story vivid and vibrant. Remember that one of your main goals is to create the mood or mindset that will strike your readers.
  4. Begin the editing phase. This is the hardest part of writing, not because it requires a lot of effort, but because you need to asses your own work critically. At the beginning stages you will either feel like the work is absolutely brilliant, and nothing should be done to this perfect arrangement of words, or it’s a total disaster and should be burned together with your computer. In the reality, your work is neither of these two extremes, but you can make it a little better by reading again. This helps you to detect mistakes (either grammatical or factual), replace some words, and delete all writing filler words such as “very” and “absolutely.”
  5. Publishing. Take some time after the editing stage to calm down. Now it’s time to present your brainchild to the world. Thanks to the Internet, you can now publish flash fiction on one of the major websites dedicated to it, participate in competitions, and receive feedback.

Mistakes to Avoid While Flash Fiction Writing

If you want to create a great flash fiction story, DO NOT:

  • write a scenario

Some authors fall in the trap of deleting all the descriptions and feelings, and describe bare action to make the plot more dynamic and packed with as many events as possible in 1000 words. Even in scenarios, directors have comments on the location where action takes place, characters appearance, and other points.

  • write an essay or a poem

Though flash fiction stories are short and mainly aimed to provoke strong emotions, they are still stories, and that means you need plot and action. Beautiful descriptions of landscapes or feelings are also a good thing to write about, but that would be a different style.

  • put too many details

Once you discover the power of minor details, it’s easy to get overexcited and put too many of them in your flash fiction story. Don’t overdecorate it with characters, plot twists and hidden puns. You may still fit it within 1000 words, but it will be difficult for readers to grasp the main idea. To put it metaphorically, a good flash fiction story is like a breath of fresh air.

How to Choose Flash Fiction Titles

What is flash fiction writing? Basically, it’s reflecting upon a real situation that impressed the author. Short fiction stories are rarely 100% imaginative, it is more often something the author has seen in real life, and then used for the story. Find your inspiration in dozens of funny, dramatic and crazy stories happening around you every day.

1) Observe the surroundings. This is a great mental exercise, almost like meditation, and a great way to come up with a flash fiction story. Stop worrying about your daily troubles and let your mind immerse itself in the buzz of everyday life swirling around you.

2) Go crazy. Accept the weirdest ideas that start coming to your head. You know, there was a time when people who wrote science fiction and fantasy were considered weird escapists. Now we have many of the technological miracles that were described in early science fiction books. So note all ideas that come to your head. Some of them might never be embodied in writing, while some will give birth to great stories. Since you never know which one is which, just develop a habit of noting them all (though it can be annoying at times).

3) Try writing a series. Creating a new character each time you want to write a short story is complicated, so you can try writing a series of stories about the same character. This is a good exercise if you are afraid of writing lengthy narratives. Also, this will help you to create a character with charisma, like those on a popular Internet comic, since the character will develop and evolve from one story to another.

Let us know in the comment section below if you have some more good tips on how to write flash fiction stories and where to find inspiration.

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