Flash Fiction

How to Write Flash Fiction: 5 Tips for Writing Short Short Stories

4 Jan 2022 Fiction

Imagine a short story, then make it even shorter.

That’s flash fiction.

Short stories run anywhere between 1,500 and 10,000 words. Flash fiction stories run up to 1,500 words — but often much shorter. Usually up to 500 words.

If you get down to 100 words or fewer, that’s micro fiction.

Flash fiction contests tempt new writers. After all, writing 500 words sounds a lot less daunting than 5,000.

But if you’re a brand new writer, flash fiction may not be for you. It takes skill to condense a story that much.

If you’re more experienced, flash fiction can be a great way to experiment with new story ideas, try a new style, and become a better writer — without committing a lot of time.

Tips for Writing Memorable Flash Fiction

1. Include Conflict

Regardless the length of your story, conflict is the engine of fiction. No conflict, no story.

Your flash fiction piece must have conflict. That could be external — between two characters, between a character and society, or even between a character and nature. Or it could be internal conflict, a struggle within the character’s own mind.

2. Avoid Throat Clearing

You won’t have the time or space for much description, backstory, philosophizing, or anything that slows your story. Rather than telling the reader everything about the setting, suggest a few details that’ll trigger the theater of the reader’s mind.

Most important, jump straight into your story. You don’t have words to spare on introducing your characters at length.

3. Use Dialogue Sparingly

Cut flash fiction dialogue to the bone. There’s no room in any length fiction for banal, on-the-nose greetings and small talk. Pared down dialogue should move the story along, helping to reveal character and advance the plot.

Cut the dead wood from your dialogue — and what’s left will be much more powerful. Remember, what remains unsaid, or appears as subtext, can also be hugely significant.

4. Aim for the Heart

Even in 100 words, you should strive for an emotional connection. Your story should carry a punch. Without shoehorning it in or becoming maudlin or cheesy, you want to make the reader laugh, cry, feel moved.

Before you start, have an idea of what you want the reader to take away from your story and to feel. That’s the way to potentially write something truly memorable.

5. Keep the End in Mind

From the first word of your piece, know where you’re headed. Every sentence should lead to the final one. Your writing tone should be consistent throughout and build to the ending.

Flash fiction deserves aggressive, even ferocious, self-editing as much as a longer piece does. Edit thoroughly so that your whole piece builds to the end. This can be great training for getting to the place where you’re happy with every word.

Ready to Give Flash Fiction a Try?

Do you have a few short stories under your belt already? Maybe it’s time to challenge yourself with a flash fiction piece. It can be fun, but perhaps not as easy as it looks.

Click here for plenty of free writing contests seeking stories as short as 53 words. Good luck!