Well, folks, today is Flash Fiction ‘Friday Frighteners,’ and I thought I would post some helpful tips on writing flash fiction. The first two articles have some great advice on this miniaturized version of writing, and the last piece is a list of flash fiction submission and contest sites. So, I hope you have a great Friday and enjoy the info. Maybe these bits of information will get you to sit down and begin to write your own flash fiction, it’s a great way to invigorate the creative mind and who knows, that 1,000-word story might just turn into your next great novel. Of course, there is an accompanying video to go along with the articles to get you in the mood to read along😉
“7 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction”
By: Skylar Spring
What is Flash Fiction?
Flash forward to flash fiction, a form of fiction writing which is increasing in popularity day by day. Flash Fiction goes by several names including: Micro Fiction, Sudden Fiction, Fast Fiction and Short-short stories. It is a short form of storytelling, in which a writer must build a complete story in less than 1000-2000 words. However this criteria may vary from writer to writer or editor to editor. Some writers believe that a complete story told in 75 words or less is true flash fiction, while others believe that 100-500 words make a short-short story. Most magazines have a 2000 maximum and are favorable of shorter pieces. There are even twitter short story publishers, who only accept and publish 145 character short story tweets. As you can see, the guidelines to writing flash fiction are very hazy and flexible. Flash Fiction has only just begun to become popular among writers and publishers though it has been around for years. Many publications, online and in print, have shifted their focus to flash fiction. So why shouldn’t you too?
Micro Fiction is a great way to improve your skills for writing longer pieces, is challenging and fun. It can also help you to write better by forcing you to get rid of the clutter we put into our writing all the time. Below are some tips to get you started on your journey into the world of Flash Fiction.
Plotting a Flash Fiction Piece
Writing a complete story in less than 2,000 words can be daunting. But in truth, though challenging, it is not as hard as one may think. Like any story, a short short must have a beginning, a middle and an ending. It also must have a conflict, climax, resolution and a character change. These elements are what make it a complete story.
The best way to begin a piece of flash fiction is to develop a main character and write the piece around them. Choose a conflict or problem and start in the middle of the action or at the climax. As you go through the story you can then reveal back story or background information that ties into the current situation. At the end, you’ll still need to resolve the problem or conflict that you established in the beginning. Now here’s the thing, in order to make your piece a story and not just a scene, you must present a character change at the end. How does the resolution to the conflict or problem change your character? This is an important question as it will complete your piece and make it a story.
Below you’ll find further tips and exercises for writing flash fiction.
Tips for Writing Flash Fiction
- Picking a topic – Narrowing it down.
– When writing flash fiction, the smaller and more specific the topic the better. Look for precise ideas in broad topics and build on them. Take a topic like coming of age; narrow it down. Pick out some specific events that show the coming of age in young adolescents. For example: failing a class, standing up to a bully (or not), a girl’s first period, prom night or high school graduation. Now choose one of those events and write a story about it.
- No long-winded introductions – Short and sweet is key.
– It’s fast fiction, you don’t want to spend too much time on the introduction. Yes, you want to get as much background as possible but you don’t want to go over your word count and you don’t want to lose your reader. Try to fit everything you need in the first paragraph and then get on with your story. For example, a character’s background info can be worked into the story through flashbacks and memories rather than laying it all out in the opening paragraphs. Rope your readers in, then worry about background information.
- Roping in your reader – Start in the middle of the action.
– Begin right away with the action. Try to remember that flash fiction is usually a single scene in time; one moment that sticks out. Don’t describe more than you have to; let the reader fill in some of the blanks. This will keep them wanting more and in turn keep them reading your story.
- Think like a camera lens – Focus on a single moment or image in time.
– As I said this is meant to be one moment in time. Focus on one powerful image to base your story around. For example: a deserted town or a cresting river. Paint a picture with your words.
- Don’t give your reader everything at once – Keep the suspense going.
– It’s okay if your reader has no idea what’s going on in the majority of the story. Just tie it all together in the end with a nice bow. They’ll keep reading out of sheer curiosity and a wanting for understanding. This goes with roping in the readers.
- Using common knowledge is helpful – Reference tell tale facts.
– If your story is part of something that is commonly known than references will save you time and words. Refer to historical events, location, etc. For example: say your story takes place in 1920s, a single word like prohibition or a phrase like economic boom, would reference that entire era. By doing this you give the reader a load of background information in a single sentence.
- Give the readers a shock – Twist endings are best for flash fiction.
– Unlike a novel or short story, in flash fiction there is simply not enough time or space to build up your story through its characters and background details. This can make it hard to come up with an ending that packs a punch for the readers. In this case, we can turn to the twist ending. Leave your readers with their mouth agape in surprise at the unexpected turn of events.
Flash Fiction Exercises
In one respect, Flash fiction in and of itself is a great exercise for writing longer pieces of literature. However there are exercises to help you master the brevity that is needed in short-short stories. Flash Fiction exercises teach you the importance of writing to a word count, avoiding clutter, word choice and usage, and organizing your thoughts. Below are just a few exercises that I like to use when writing flash fiction.
- Pick 10 people you know and write a one sentence description of them.
- Write a 500 word autobiography.
- Write a 500-1000 word short story about a picture.
- Create a scene where a character will face a life-altering moment. No more than 1 page, front and back.
- Write a 10 word sentence that sums up your day.
These are only a few that I enjoy and that really help me. You can find tons more just by surfing the internet or visiting your local library or bookstore.
Flash fiction if fun and challenging. It’s gaining popularity faster and faster every day. Magazines are very favorable when it comes to micro fiction submissions. Not to mention writing short-short stories can improve your skills for longer pieces. So challenge yourself and have fun trying something new.
Writing: What is Flash Fiction and Why Write It Now?
By Debbie Young
In the first of an occasional series defining and celebrating different genres and formats of writing, British author Debbie Young (yes, the same Debbie Young who is commissioning editor of this blog), shares her enthusiasm for flash fiction and explains why she thinks writing flash is a great discipline for authors of all kinds.
As someone who has spent most her career writing relatively brief items, from journalism to press releases and brochures, and as an ardent blogger (323 posts on my author blog at last count), I veer naturally towards short-form fiction when it comes to creative writing.
Although I read a vast quantity of novels, I prefer to write short stories, and until recently I was fixated on the classic word count of 3,000 per story.
But then I discovered flash fiction, thanks to a chance encounter on social media with National Flash Fiction Day, founded two years ago by British university lecturer and author Calum Kerr, and I quickly came to embrace what seemed at first glance an impossibly restrictive format: typically anything from 75 to 1,000 words, and sometimes even shorter.
Quick as a Flash to Read.
Flash fiction is not new: people have long been writing stories of this kind and calling it various other names, such as micro-fiction, ultra-short stories and sudden fiction. Ernest Hemingway, not known for his verbosity, once wrote a classic six-worder which is often quoted as the perfect example of such economic writing:
For sale. Never worn.
Part of the intrigue of flash fiction is what it doesn’t say. Just enough is revealed to engage the reader’s imagination and get him or her effectively collaborating with the author to fill in the back-story and the detail. Ironically one could write lengthy essays explicating such short stories. There is power in such brevity.
Why Now is a Good Time to Write Flash Fiction.
So why the renewed interest in flash fiction now? It’s an ideal form for the digital age, in which more people are reading on smaller electronic screens, and in which wide access to the internet makes it easy to download and read short fiction in odd moments on the move.
Cynics might also say it’s the ideal length to grab the supposed short attention span of modern youth, but I think that’s unfair. If you pick up a good flash collection or anthology, it can have the same effect as opening a packet of sweets: you snack on one or two, and before you realise it you’ve consumed the whole lot at one sitting.
Despite the constraints of its low word count, flash fiction can accommodate satisfyingly traditional story-telling and, if desired, a sneaky twist. It also allows for experimentation, which is easier with a short form than with a novel-length work. Much dazzlingly creative experimental flash is emerging just now.
Personally I prefer flash collections in which the tiny stories are unified by a common theme, whether in structure – as in Helena Mallet’s Flash Fraction, comprising 75 stories each of 75 words, or Calum Kerr’s Lunch Hour, which riffs on the possibilities of what might happen in that brief midday time frame. In my own new collection, Quick Change, I’ve placed the stories in ascending order according to the age of the key players, literally from cradle to grave.
Why Write Flash Fiction?
Don’t be fooled by the brevity of this art-form. It takes real skill and effort to fit a great story into such a small framework. I believe that writing flash fiction is a very useful exercise for authors who want to practice expressing themselves within a limited word count e.g. journalists and bloggers, and indeed anyone who seeks to tighten up their writing in any form, eliminating superfluous words and cutting to the chase. That’d be just about any kind of writer: novelists, non-fiction authors, business executives. I write across a range of other genres, including self-help books for authors, memoirs and travelogues, and I am sure that my new-found passion for flash will help me write better in all of those genres.
It’s ironic that when writing more words each day is often perceived to be an essential step on the road to selling more books, the key message of this small-but-perfectly-formed genre is that less is definitely more. It’s also very satisfying, when you’re bogged down in a book-length work-in-progress, to take time out to write, hone and perfect a piece of work that will fit on a single page.
So while I plough on with longer book projects, I’m hooked on flash. I hope you’ll want to give it a try too.
Flash Fiction Competitions
Quick links on this page:
- regular flash fiction competitions
- prestigious flash fiction contests offering large monetary prizes
- annual flash fiction competitions
- flash fiction magazines
- one-off flash fiction competitions
- other flash fiction competition lists
- closed contests – a history for reference
Last updated 15th March 2019
This page lists flash fiction, micro fiction, sudden fiction, twitterage, twitterature, dribble, drabble, minisaga, nanotale, micro-story and very short fiction competitions, prizes and awards. Most of the contests listed accept entries from writers residing anywhere in the world, but please check each competition’s guidelines on their website before submitting.
The competitions listed on this page used to be included on my short story competitions page, but as flash fiction and micro fiction contests are growing in popularity, I decided to create a separate resource for them.
This page lists too many contests to post here so I will just give you the link to the page. Good luck and I hope your story wins.