How to Write Flash Fiction: Ultimate Guide for Beginners
How to Write Flash Fiction: Definition
Flash fiction is a literary piece that reflects a full story in an extremely limited word count. The aim of the author that wishes to write flash fiction is to tell the story in the shortest possible word limit. Flash fiction has no strict word limits. How long does a story need to be to remain a story? Some flash fiction pieces are limited to 280 characters (also known as twitterature) or with 100 words (drabble). This genre is the most concentrated form of literary writing, because in order to achieve the best effect, the author must choose every single word with great care. For many novice writers, flash fiction may become a great starting point in their writing career.
Flash fiction has been popular for over several decades, and is still gaining popularity. Each year publishing houses print collections and anthologies of flash fiction. And it’s not surprising. The genre of flash fiction is exceptional, as in a short amount of time, it can create a great story that involves surprises and induces smiles, or boosts imagination and gives food for thought. In this article we have gathered ideas for a guide on how to write flash fiction and tips that will help you create your own masterpiece.
What’s So Special About Flash Fiction
The writer needs to have high-level writing skills to be able to tell a lot in a few words. In order to entertain a person and make him or her think about something, a talented writer does not need to write hundreds of pages. The author can do this with only a line consisting of several words.
After reading one-page flash fiction, you might get the impression that you have read several books. If you don’t want to spend a year or more on a novel that won’t gain success, write flash fiction! It is a great tool for training your writing skills and doesn’t take more than a few hours. With the help of flash fiction you will learn how to construct concise and meaningful lines in a story.
Here are the elements of great flash fiction:
- Brevity. Every word counts, and good flash fiction is usually less than 1,000 words.
- Characters and setting. This is an important part of the story that helps the reader get closer to the story.
- Rich words and form. The author needs to use rich language to efficiently tell the story and enrich it with images and symbols.
- Elements of surprise. A great piece of flash fiction should leave the reader with an unexpected twist, an open ending, or any element that will make the reader silently say, “wow.”
- Tension, conflicts, and actions. In order to involve the reader in the reading, the author needs to put effort in creating conflicts or tension that will hold the reader until the end of the story.
If you wish to learn how to write a flash fiction story, read the following step-by-step guide and get ready to start writing your first piece of flash fiction. Now, let’s start!
How to Write a Flash Fiction Story: Step-by-Step Guide
As any piece of literature, flash fiction follows nearly the same steps. Just go from one step to another and get a finished paper after completing the last point.
1. Brainstorm about the idea. Take an empty notebook or a new memo in your phone and write down all ideas that come into your mind at any time of the day. Carefully think about the elements of the story: who will be the main character and secondary characters, and what will be the time period, the genre, and the conflict.
If you get frustrated even thinking of generating an idea, read the available flash fiction over the internet and google inspiring topic lists. Use writing prompts like the following:
- Think about your personal experience.
- Remember the most touching moment in your life.
- Think about the emotions you experienced when doing something for the first time.
- Imagine an extraordinary situation in a coffee shop or on the street.
- Write about an overheard conversation.
- Watch your favorite movie and use the best moments as a basis for your writing.
- Imagine what can happen to the person that chooses a different route from work.
Don’t limit yourself only with literary sources; you can find inspiration in unexpected places. Just allow yourself to think that any topic can be a good basis for your flash fiction.
2. Think about the characters and setting. Flash fiction usually doesn’t involve vivid descriptions of characters and places. However, you need to create a basis and think about the character’s inner world. The character and the scene should appear in a flash, so the reader should be able to guess who he or she is. In the text everything will appear as a quick sketch, so think carefully what points will be better to highlight.
Think about the character’s potential actions, mood, and what kind of person he or she is. As every flash fiction should contain a conflict or tension, think what feelings your character experiences. What has happened to him or her? How do other characters influence the main character? Are there any unpleasant events?
Tell why your setting and characters are unique and avoid long boring descriptions. Try not to use more than two characters and a few scenes. Dialogue is a good tool for revealing characters and story context.
3. Tie all ideas and characters into a structured plan. It can be in the form of a list, table, or scheme. This will help you navigate between ideas, cut unnecessary points, and unite similar points. Think about the parts of your future text: what you will place at the beginning, middle, climax, and resolution. Your story may begin with a short introduction or start right in the middle of a certain event. Think about an attention-grabbing intro and an expressive ending. The last part of your story should be memorable. You can apply an open ending and give the reader food for thought.
4. Write the first draft. Before you start writing, decide on a limitation for the words. Use your inner creativity to tell the story on the paper. Don’t be tempted to rewrite sentences and make something else out of your text while you write – you will do this job afterward.
5. Polish and proofread it. Read the written text and think critically about its structure, plot, and characters. Have you achieved the desired mood? Here you can rewrite sentences, change words, and do everything to make your text look unified. When you will be pleased with the content, look at mechanical and grammatical errors. Mistakes in short texts are easily noticed by the reader. If you are taking part in a contest or want to submit your work for publishing, make sure that your text corresponds with the requirements.
Every author uses his or her own set of steps or just writes as the story flows. This guide on how to write flash fiction is a universal instruction for those who wish to write flash fiction for the first time.
Flash Fiction Sample Analyzed
Read the example below – it illustrates the points of our guide. This piece of flash fiction is a small story connected with a cup of tea. Pay attention to how the author approaches this key idea in the text, and consider the comments from our expert. We think that reading flash fiction examples will give a great basis for your own future writing. By reading flash fiction samples, you will discover that your writing will more closely resemble the flash fiction format. Don’t forget to check out more samples on our website for more inspiration.
Click the images to see their full size.
Tips on How to Write in Flash Fiction With Ease
- To get better motivation, get into any fiction writing contest. Usually such contests give a general topic or certain rules that you need to follow.
- Read several collections of flash fiction and any other internet source to get more ideas about how the authors approach telling stories in short texts.
- For your first piece of flash fiction, pick small ideas that can easily be described in limited words.
- Practice flash fiction writing from various exercises. For example, write about a ghost or an unusual weekend.
- Start collecting a list of powerful words, phrases, and thoughts that you can use in fiction writing. Avoid words that are too general or abstract to enrich your text with certain images.
- Ask your friends, peers, relatives, co-workers, and everyone you can rely on to read your work and give feedback.
- Cut, cut, and cut some more. You will never know where you will need to add a new sentence or phrase. Make your text as short as possible.
- Make sure that your story has unexpected twists to surprise your reader.
- As soon as you will do the last corrections, put your writing aside for some time and then revise it again.
- Pick an interesting title that will reflect the core idea of your story. Write as many variants for the title as possible.
- If you have used historical facts or other common information, make sure that you have used it correctly.
We hope that this guide on how to write flash fiction will help you write your first flash story. Don’t be sad if you don’t succeed the first time. Writing, as any other work, gets better only with time. So, if you practice writing flash fiction diligently and read more examples, we believe that you will finally write a flash fiction masterpiece!
Mistakes to Avoid While Flash Fiction Writing
If you want to create a great flash fiction story, DO NOT:
- write a scenario
Some authors fall in the trap of deleting all the descriptions and feelings, and describe bare action to make the plot more dynamic and packed with as many events as possible in 1000 words. Even in scenarios, directors have comments on the location where action takes place, characters appearance, and other points.
- write an essay or a poem
Though flash fiction stories are short and mainly aimed to provoke strong emotions, they are still stories, and that means you need plot and action. Beautiful descriptions of landscapes or feelings are also a good thing to write about, but that would be a different style.
- put too many details
Once you discover the power of minor details, it’s easy to get overexcited and put too many of them in your flash fiction story. Don’t overdecorate it with characters, plot twists and hidden puns. You may still fit it within 1000 words, but it will be difficult for readers to grasp the main idea. To put it metaphorically, a good flash fiction story is like a breath of fresh air.
How to Choose Flash Fiction Titles
What is flash fiction writing? Basically, it’s reflecting upon a real situation that impressed the author. Short fiction stories are rarely 100% imaginative, it is more often something the author has seen in real life, and then used for the story. Find your inspiration in dozens of funny, dramatic and crazy stories happening around you every day.
1) Observe the surroundings. This is a great mental exercise, almost like meditation, and a great way to come up with a flash fiction story. Stop worrying about your daily troubles and let your mind immerse itself in the buzz of everyday life swirling around you.
2) Go crazy. Accept the weirdest ideas that start coming to your head. You know, there was a time when people who wrote science fiction and fantasy were considered weird escapists. Now we have many of the technological miracles that were described in early science fiction books. So note all ideas that come to your head. Some of them might never be embodied in writing, while some will give birth to great stories. Since you never know which one is which, just develop a habit of noting them all (though it can be annoying at times).
3) Try writing a series. Creating a new character each time you want to write a short story is complicated, so you can try writing a series of stories about the same character. This is a good exercise if you are afraid of writing lengthy narratives. Also, this will help you to create a character with charisma, like those on a popular Internet comic, since the character will develop and evolve from one story to another.
Let us know in the comment section below if you have some more good tips on how to write flash fiction stories and where to find inspiration.