Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for Flash Fiction

So, what is flash fiction anyway? To put it simply, flash fiction is just very short fiction. Any story up to 1500 words is considered flash fiction.

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Although this poignant little piece was rumoured to be the result of a bet Ernest Hemingway made with John Robert Colombo and Arthur C. Clarke, as they were having lunch together, that he could write a complete story in six words, it was never substantiated. Still, it remains probably the most famous example of flash fiction written to date.

The challenge of flash fiction is to tell a complete story in as few words as possible. It must begin immediately and move quickly toward the end--no long descriptions, no unessential words. It is not a prose poem, nor an extended paragraph used to set up a punch line, nor an anecdotal slice-of-life.

Flash fiction forces the writer to compact the story. Strip away those wordy descriptions and character developments. Define your character by having him do something instead of creating lengthy histories and motivations.

It can be any form, style, or genre. It can be whimsical and entertaining or literary and sublime. It can be controversial or unconventional. It can be troubling, unsettling, or unpredictable. The best stories are often about the human condition, showing it in an insightful way that isn’t always obvious.

The easiest way to write flash fiction is to just tell the story. Throw yourself into your writing and write a story, regardless of the length. Then grab a red pen and have at it. Get rid of every adjective and adverb you can find. Trust me, you’ll be surprised by how much emotion and description can be conveyed without using descriptive words.

Ask yourself these questions:
Is there a clear beginning, a strong middle, a definitive ending?
Is the character compelling?
Does the story make its point and drive it home?
Is every word absolutely essential to the story, the language precise and clear?
Does the story have action, not activity?
Does every sentence move the story forward?
Is the ending understandable, whether it’s unexpected or inevitable?

Keep in mind that good flash fiction, like all good writing, should have some point to it, a reason for being. The best flash fiction lingers in the mind long after the story has been read--the way of all great literary works of art.

Here are a few places to submit your flash fiction:
Flash Fiction Online
The Pedestal Magazine
Abyss and Apex
The Vestal Review
Every Day Fiction

1 comment:

Paperback Writer said...

I've always loved a good flash fiction story. I think that's why I'm doing the challenge as a drabble a day. :)