Flash Fizzle or Sizzle

Flash Fiction can be one of the most enjoyable forms of fiction to read as while it doesn’t require a great time commitment to read it initially, themes and messages remain with you for longer.

As a writer of flash, however, the very elements which make it accessible to our fast paced world, make it challenging to write. Instead of the luxury of thousands of words to convey a setting, the deeper motivations of a character or the intricacies of an emotion, an entire story with well-rounded developed characters must be captured in under 1000 words. Flash fiction with clichéd and two dimensional characters will fizzle and be discarded.

The elements of good writing do not change, regardless of word count; however there is a harder line to toe when it comes to flash fiction.

Make every word count.

With absolutely no room for padding, flash fictions must be the trimmed down, toned sister of a short story. Text must be to the point, vivid and explode from the page. A good rule of editing a flash fiction to ‘cut the fat’, would be to delete all adverbs, discard “then” and bin anything that doesn’t immediately add to the precise event the story is trying to convey.

Start in the middle

When you begin to write, it’s a good tip to begin in the middle of the event or incident and write around it. As you edit, you may decide to start the story somewhere along the timeline you are creating so that it has more impact. By beginning to write in the middle, you take away the distraction of having to set the scene and go ‘straight for the jugular’. 

Limit your characters

With a limited word count, so too must your host of character be selective. You don’t have time to build character or set scenes, so even their names must signify baits or foreshadow events.

The story arc still applies.

Be it novel, novella or flash fiction, your tale must still follow a story arc involving an event with a major obstacle to overcome ending with a resolution.

A twist in the tale is what flash is all about.

Although the isn’t a rule, most readers expect to be surprised and have something to think about after they have finished reading. The best flash fiction stories are ones that the reader immediately reads again, to pick up on the clues which lead to the twist at the end. Elements of shock or added humour will hold a reader’s attention for longer.

Do you write flash fiction? What are your tips for success with this form?

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2 thoughts on “Flash Fizzle or Sizzle

  1. I entered a flash piece for submission just today. I realise I’ve been playing with the genre for a while in an online writing comp I’ve been involved in. It’s a lot of fun! I think I used to be quite dismissive of it, but what you said at the start about the themes lingering after the piece is gone is very true. I enjoy the challenge of writing to a really small word limit and trying to convey the emotion and sense of place within those boundaries. I don’t know if I have any tips but I like those you’ve listed, especially the part about the ending.

  2. Annie, you’ve written a description of a genre I rarely attempt though I love to read. A story pared down to essential elements amps up the excitement level. It’s something I should try as I expect the skills learned to write successful flash fiction would help make my longer stories more suspenseful. Thanks for post.

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