What is flash fiction and how long is it? The typical definition of flash fiction is a short fiction story of under 1500 words, usually under 1000 words.
The term is often used to describe short works or short casual works as well. There are also terms that define more specific word counts under 100 words, like drabbles (which are 100 words) or six-word-stories (6 words).
While flash fiction is written in pretty much any genre, popular genres include: romance, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, and fanfiction.
Notable flash fiction include fables like Aesop’s Fables and classics from writers like Walt Whitman. Flash fiction stories tend to be published in anthologies, journals, and collections.
I have written flash fics online for years with hundreds of flash fiction works shared on sites like Commaful as well as various journals.
Flash Fiction Sites Where You Read And Write Online
Before we discuss the ins and outs of flash fiction, first, you should experience some flash fiction. You can find flash fiction online on these sites to check out.
For the largest selection, you can try one of these sites. These are great for sharing and reading.
- Commaful — beautiful picture book format, very nice and strong community for online flash fiction stories and drabbles. Both fanfiction and original fiction do really well here
- #vss365 — a twitter tag filled with short fiction and flash fiction writers. People have a lot of fun here.
For more professional works, you can try a flash fiction publication or journal. Here are a few I like:
- The New Yorker: Not many stories, but very high quality
- Flash Fiction Online: Well done monthly issues
Why Write Flash Fiction Stories?
Flash fiction is extremely difficult to write well because the writer has to cover a lot of ground with few words. Imagine the typical story arch with a beginning, rising action, climax, and conclusion. Many flash fiction stories are able to touch on all of those elements, all within the strict word count. The word limit provides a very creative challenge.
Flash fiction stories are also fun because they can be faster to write and written more frequently. Some writers on the popular Commaful site have told me that they write daily flash fictions to test creativity and build the daily habit of writing.
Many readers also enjoy reading flash fictions because flash fiction stories are so easy to get into and take little time commitment. Most novels and stories require readers to put books on a TBR (to be read) list because they can’t immediately read the story, but flash fictions are so fast and easy that people read the stories on the spot and can immediately share feedback and even dream up new ideas.
A number of my novels actually started off as flash fiction stories! People found my flash fiction concepts so interesting that I took it a step further and fleshed the plot and storyline out. People started dreaming up ideas and sharing story
How to Write Flash Fiction
Writing flash fiction is harder than it looks. As somebody who has written hundreds of flash fiction stories now (many of which I’m not proud of, but part of the learning journey), I have found some patterns and ideas that I have found useful.
1. Jump into the action
With flash fiction, you don’t have time for lengthy explanations, character introductions, and setting descriptions. You need to go straight into what is happening in order to get everything you want in the story.
This does not mean that you don’t care about characters and setting. This fact actually forces you to build setting and character through plot. Through the actions, ideas, and plot points, the readers should be able to pull some ideas about the characters and the world the user is participating in.
This advice is particularly good for flash fiction, but the concept is also used in a number of novels, TV shows, and movies as well.
For example, Westworld, a popular TV series on HBO about an amusement park filled with artificial humans that behave and look like real humans, shares very little about the setting up front. The dialogue and the interaction between characters slowly revealed that some “humans” were robots and how the science and business operated. Throughout the episodes, the show gradually revealed more and more about the characters and setting without needing to directly explain or introduce anybody.
2. Figure out the ending before writing
The best flash fiction stories I’ve written and read involved great endings. Many involve plot twists. Others involve a detail mentioned earlier during the rising action. My favorite target for flash fiction endings is surprise. Surprise is great because it immediately gets the reader into an emotional state to dig back and understand more.
I also love surprise because if I’m able to surprise somebody within 100 words, I am a lot more confident that I can surprise people with a similar or expanded plotline should I decide to write an extended version of the plot outline.
3. Try not to worry too much about word count until you hit the editing process
When writing, keep your story brief and be conscious that this is flash fiction. Try not to worry about the exact word count on the first draft. The editing process will help you reach your target word count. The issue of keeping an eye on your word count as your write is you consciously will start lowering your word count as you get closer to the end of the story. This leads to a slightly more verbose start of the story and a slightly rushed ending.
Just write the story. Check the word count. And then edit!
The strategies for editing will vary depending on the word count you’re targeting. First and foremost, edit for the idea and storyline. Does the story make sense? Does the message you’re trying to get across make sense?
After you edit for the idea, start targeting the word count. Try to identify the parts that aren’t critical to the core message and use that to cut your word count down.
What’s next? Write your own flash fiction!
If you’ve got this far, you now know many of my tips and tricks for writing successful flash fic. It is now time for you to get in on the flash fiction action!
I hope you have a better understanding and a newfound respect for the art of flash fiction.