What Makes A Good Flash Fiction Piece?
Pare down the bones of story structure to create short fiction.
To answer that question, we need to understand what flash fiction is about. It is a short story under 1000 words, generally right at or around 500 words. Flash fiction is the length of one short scene with emotional IMPACT using shocks, twists, irony, OR something deeply meaningful to end it.
Anything less than 500 is Micro Fiction, which has several sub-categories. If it is more than 1000 words, it would still be considered a short story, not flash fiction.
The purpose of micro-fiction is to express interesting ideas or tell a brief story in as few words as possible differing it from flash fiction which depicts a scene or a “moment or realization” in the life of your character.
The Bones of Flash Fiction
- Flash fiction should have all the qualities of good story craft and scenes with a character having one problem. (This is hook & inciting incident for another term)
- At least 1 or 2 possible conflicts to carry the story forward. (Forward Action) (Brevity-keeping it simple)
- And a brief ending, creating an overall satisfying capsule of the story. The short word limit only has room to capture a meaningful or powerful moment in the character’s life.
Short Story Structure for Flash Fiction
Flash fiction should give the reader some satisfaction with its ending. The more complete and self-contained the story the better. I try to create a “semblance” of the 3-arc structure when I write flash fiction keeping it loose with word limits.
- One or two descriptive words for character e.g. nervous typist, sarcastic officer, disillusion magician
- One or two descriptive words for setting, e.g. windy sidewalk = city, snowy incline or anything from hill to Everest or ski resort. Sweltering heat = anything from the beach to the desert and so on. Let the reader use their imagination to interpret your word picture. Hint, don’t spell it out to save words.
The KEY to a good short, short story
The key is to use strong, actionable single words to knit a body of descriptive and action passages together to evoke emotion, forward action, plus intriguing and interesting conclusions.
Flash fiction is so brief that the end can, at best, trigger, or create an emotional response in the reader, or leave questions in their mind, or possibilities. It is only meant to be a window of time or moment in the character’s life, not the whole story.
- Conflict=Action Taken. The action has immediate consequences for the character. It is not just a random sequence of unrelated events happening to the character — especially in flash fiction where your words are limited, normally around 500. Make every action count.
- Everything, every word, included in flash fiction has one of three purposes or all: 1. to progress the story’s forward momentum 2. or cause a change in the character 3. or reveal something important that gets a reaction from the reader.
Make the character responsible for his choices and actions.
Action=Reaction Don’t forget conflict has real consequence for the character to deal with or accept, a lot of times with compounding effects that the character has to deal with in some way now or in the future.
Personally, I prefer flash fiction that engages me, evokes a reaction, makes me think, a twist that sparks curiosity without leaving me hanging, irony, and/or the shock factor.
The shock factor must be meaningful, or I won’t read that author again. It must intrigue or raise a question, and not make me feel cheated. It must be consistent with the tone of the story. I love it when they make me laugh with irony.
Free 3-week flash fiction course. This is an affiliate link.
Dragon Smoke & Wind by Karen Lynn (This one is one of my favorite from July 2016 blog hop.)
Juneta Key is the columnist and editor of The Ninja Writers Pub fiction section on Medium. She is the manager of the accountability program for Ninja Writers LLC and founder and host of the Write-In Saloon. She is the CEO of Writer’s Gambit Fiction Consultations, and offers coaching in fiction story development, short story, world building, and Scrivener. As an author Juneta is an admin and moderator for Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), Facebook community & IWSG Goodreads Book Club. She is a co-founder of Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop, and co-owner of Stormdance Publications which publishes themed anthologies. Her current novel project is the Ghost Pirate, a space opera from the Starlight Galaxy series.