Also called micro-fiction, dribble, drabble, mini-sagas or short-shorts, depending on their word counts, flash fiction are fictional works of extreme brevity that can range from a six-word to a maximum of a 1500 word story (most say 1000 is the cap). They are written in almost all genres, though the most popular of them are romance, horror and thrillers!
Reading a micro-fiction takes from anything between 3 to 21 minutes and provides you the same reading experience with plots, characters, story evolution and the final resolution of conflict in the story. So the next time you are struck in a traffic or want to relish a story but do not want to go through pages and pages of content, you know what to look for! More than that, flash fictions are not as time consuming for the author to write as a novella or a novel (though not very easy).
There are not just books in the market that help you experience reading flash fiction but also various sites and social media platforms. Don’t worry, I will provide you the list of all of them! In this article, however, I primarily focus on answering ‘how to write a flash fiction’ and discuss examples and tips that can help you achieve the same!
Terms associated with flash fiction
Depending on the word count, flash fictions are given specific terms. Let’s discuss what are those terms and their word counts before deliberating on how to write flash fiction.
- Six-word fiction! Six word fictions are stories that are written in just six words. In general, every story with a single digit word count is a category in itself!
- Mini-sagas or dribble! A dribble is a flash fiction story with a maximum word count of fifty!
- Drabble! The upper cap of word count for a drabble is 100 words!
- Twitterature or twitter fiction! The word Twitterature comes from combining Twitter and Literature. It is the use of Twitter’s services to provide a creative challenge to writers to write fiction or poetries with a maximum of 280 characters. (upgraded from the 140 character limit in 2017)
- Sudden Fiction-Sudden fiction is the type of flash fiction that you can write within 750 characters!
Where to submit your flash fiction stories-
Once you know about flash fictions, you have to read them to know how you can write one! Therefore, before discussing ‘how to write a flash fiction’, I will give you a list of the places where you can read works of other fiction writers as well as publish your own story!
1.On Twitter– Hashtags like vss365, microfiction, twitterfiction and flashfiction are used by hundreds of writers and bloggers to write flash fiction stories and poetries. The social media platform is a great place to not just publish your flash fiction but also read some masterly pieces of work. Though twitterature is the most popular form of publishing your flash fiction on this platform, some writers even write and share sudden fictions through their blog links!
2. Publishing online with publishers like Atticus review-Atticus Review is an online journal that publishes flash fiction and give writers a platform where writing, as they say is, “unashamed, unadorned and unafraid.” You can read some very good works of flash fiction here. They also regularly hold writing contests which offer a good cash prize to the winners!
Like Atticus review there is Smokelong Quaterly, Literary Orphans, Tin House Flash Fridays and some very popular online flash fiction magazines that draw a large audience to its website. (3 AM magazine, flash fiction online, word riot, brevity, everyday fiction and others.)
3. Publishing with publishers like Rose Metal Press– This is one of the leading independent, not-for-profit publisher of flash fiction in the literary world. They publish in hybrid genres and have been publishing flash fiction for over 15 years by now. Many of their writers and books have been nominated for INDIES book of the year award.
Red Hen press, BOA editions, Akashic Books are some of the other publishers in the industry.
Two flash fiction story examples
Two flash fiction stories that have been widely acclaimed flash fiction story world have been discussed below! (I will cite a number of examples when will discuss the steps of answering ‘how to write flash fiction’)
1.In our time by Ernest Hemmingway– “For sales:baby shoes, never worn” is not just Hemmingway’s only fiction. Considered one of Hemmingway’s early masterpiece, ‘In our time’ is a collection of short stories that include stories of war, bullfighting and social issues of the 1930s. Hemmingway’s chapter V, of ‘In our time’ is very good example of flash fiction. His brevity and slanted description of emotions has evolved a style of writing that has come to be known as the “theory of omission”.
2.Give It up by Franz Kafka- Unlike Hemmingway’s terse writings, Franz Kafka taught flash fiction writers to carry a single emotion throughout the story and make their point. In less than 150 words, ‘Give it up’, tells us about a wanderer who has lost his way and is seeking help. Through the story Kafka actually gives us his own views about living in a society of administrative rules. The police officer represents the mainstream society and the lost peddler stands for all those men who take an unconventional and individualistic path in life.
Want to know some of the best flash fiction books out there?
How to write flash fiction ?
Given below are 7-steps that will tell you how you can write an amazing flash fiction story! Each step of answering ‘ how to write a flash fiction ‘ is followed by an example that further elucidates the point made.
Know your theme and characters!
Step 1 of answering how to write flash fiction
Decide on the genre of flash fiction that you want to write. Each genre (mostly romance, thriller and horror, as already mentioned) has its own tropes and elements. Because you have to handle the fictional elements of your genre in an extremely tight space, you have to cook your idea in a way that fits this style of writing books. Do not invest in more characters than you can manage to get away with. Brevity is the most important thing to consider, so you should pick up a theme that can help you deliver your story within the limit of words provided.
Start from the middle of the story!
Step 2 of answering how to write flash fiction
With such a small space given to narrate your story , you cannot start the story with building the characters and the scene. You have to cut the large chunk of expositions and backstory, as is usually the case with novellas or novels, and start from the middle of the story itself. Briefly describe the plot and get straight to the element of conflict in your story! Doing this is an art that a flash fiction writer has to master.
Keep the language descriptive and concise!
Step 3 of answering ‘how to write flash fiction’
Your story cannot be too wordy and descriptive. You have to keep the brevity by cutting all the additional information that do not serve your story. Of course, this cannot come in the first draft. You might have to write it long and keep truncating the story with several edits (which is usually the process most flash fiction writers follow). Compressing your story is the actual challenge when writing flash fiction.
End before the ending of the ending of your story
Step 4 of answering ‘how to write flash fiction’
The resolution of conflict in your story should not come at the end. If a lot of engagement in the story takes place at the end, the reader will be left feeling empty because you have not deliberated too deeply inside story, keeping in mind your word-count. Make sure the climax of your story does come in the last lines of your flash fiction. Give the readers time to let the decision taken by your protagonist or the turn taken by the story, sink in, with a few lines after the denouement in the story.
End with a punchline!
Step 5 of answering ‘how to write a flash fiction’
A flash fiction should give the reading experience of a beautiful enigma. The climax and denouement of your flash fiction story, as discussed in the earlier step, is not the end of your flash fiction. Any flash fiction story that gives itself up on the last line is a bad story. After the resolution of the conflict, leave the reader with an idea that they can ruminate further and think about. Reading a flash fiction should be a delightful experience and a good flash fiction is that which leaves the reader with an overwhelming emotion or a deep thought-provoking idea after the end of the story.
Pull out all the stops for your title
Step 6 of answering ‘how to write flash fiction’
And I mean it. Think, think and think about what your title should be. If your title is appealing and catchy you will attract more readers. Brainstorm your theme, characters, plot and setting and think about how you can combine all of them to give your story a fitting title. Sweat it. The title is more important in a flash fiction (especially for stories that cross the word-count of 100) when compared to any other form of writing.
Edit, edit and edit!
Step 7 of answering ‘how to write a flash fiction’
I have mentioned this time and again. Not just for writing flash fictions but in every form of writing, I can ascertain that the process of writing is actually rewriting. No great masterpiece is written in a first time draft. You have to constantly keep editing your work to get to a very polished final product. As already mentioned, most flash fiction writers follow the step of writing long and then trimming it short. Get rid of the common filler words (very, much, actually et all) and rewrite sentences that are too wordy. Edit till the time you are sure of your story and satisfied with it.
So? Hallelujah! We are done! You are ready to put out your story for publishing. Get to the top of the page and look for the places that I have mentioned to help you publish one!
You are free to share your flash fiction in the comment section below! Do let me know if you enjoyed reading the blog! I would love to hear from you!