Not all fiction has to fit a certain length – while the likes of JRR Tolkien and Stephen King may have put away thousands of words over the years, great stories don’t have to take readers days at a time to finish. For those of us who like a challenge, there’s flash fiction – where keeping things short, sharp and concise as well as enjoyable to read is your key focus!
Flash fiction normally weighs in less than 1000 words (sometimes only 100 words!) – which really isn’t too much to work with – meaning that you’re going to need to keep a few things in focus while leaving a few other storytelling techniques behind if you want to keep things short!
The aim of flash fiction is to tell us a story about a character or characters and/or a situation in a bite-size scene or two. You should ideally feel free to do away with overuse of adjectives and adverbs – stick to the meat of the matter. Show us what your characters are feeling through their dialogue, their body language, ‘tells’ about the way they are dressed, etc. The key to flash fiction is to making the words you do use really work for you.
Flash fiction writing is a great exercise for those who are experiencing writer’s block, or who may need some help in balancing ‘show’ over ‘tell’. This type of writing keeps things tight and essential – meaning that padding or throwaway lines can wait for another project. Here is a the last flash fiction piece I wrote (under 100 words!) called The Mystery Staircase.
Getting into flash fiction isn’t hard at all – think about a scene in an interesting photograph, or a pair of bizarre characters you have dreamt up – and consider how much detail you need to provide. Allow the words you use to really tell the story – focusing more on ‘showing’ us than ‘telling’ us what’s going on. As an exercise in learning to curtail exposition and unnecessary padding, it’s highly recommended by many accomplished authors. Why not give it a go?