As writers, we often have lots of story ideas floating around in our heads. As an idea factory, our minds keep churning and telling us things. Some say this is the Goddess Muse or the Holy Spirit. Whatever “It” is, it constantly talks to us and tells us fantastical things. As writers, we’ve learned to listen to it but we’re not always the best secretaries.
We try to keep up with the ideas that float into our minds. We carry around notebooks and fill them with chicken scratch. We clog up our Notes app with every thought. We hold onto pieces of napkins and torn pieces of paper as if they were books unto themselves. Whatever is available to write on, we’re known to use it.
Then there are the famous last words when we’re too busy to write the idea down. We’ll just remember it. The idea definitely won’t stay fresh in our heads for more than a few minutes, even though we swear it’s too good to ever forget. Soon that great idea is lost to the netherworld.
All of these things come at a price. We cannot remember all our ideas and we cannot always retrieve the ones we write down. Some of us have created elaborate note-taking systems, some of us just let it lie, and then there are those of us somewhere in-between.
We will be discussing the ideas that we have saved or can remember. Those are the ones we can use in the future. We can incorporate them into our Work In Progress or we can let them fade into dust.
What Do We Do With These Ideas?
To keep things simple let’s put our ideas into three categories that relate to our current Work In Progress or a future work we dream of writing one day. First, most ideas will never be included in our story. Then there are the ideas that can be included, but we never actually do include them, because we forget. Third, there are those ideas that we incorporate into our story.
Today we’re going to focus on categories one and two. The most common journey these ideas take is to the land of nothingness. The ideas collect dust or become a virtual eyesore on our computer. They sit there waiting for that magical day when the baby idea can be given the chance to grow into a mature story. Sadly, this day never comes. Another journey they can take is that of flash fiction.
What Is flash fiction?
Think of flash fiction as a fictional blog post. Flash fiction is generally considered a fiction piece that is one-thousand words or less. This can be read by the average person in three to five minutes.
The most important thing to remember when working with flash fiction is that even though you are working with a short amount of space, the story must be complete with a beginning, middle, and end. Each flash fiction piece must be self-contained, but it can also be incorporated into a series.
Take your idea and flesh it out with a simple story. One day I was at a friend’s house who had a kitten. This kitten wouldn’t leave my lap. It was adorable. I thought about doing something about a cute little kitten. I couldn’t fit it into my current Work In Progress, so I just jotted it down in my Notes app.
Later I was reading a book that had a character who was a real asshole. The character would hurt animals as a stepping stone to a future serial killer career. I jotted serial killer kid in my Notes app.
Later I was browsing my notes and I read both of these. I thought about the kitten. I thought about the serial killer. Then bingo. I combined the two and that is how my flash fiction piece Silly Kitten, You Can’t Read was born. It’s about a kitten who has a bad day with its asshole owner.
Why Write Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is fun because you can write it without the stress of a daunting project. You don’t need to worry about plot holes, multiple arcs, or character development. You can just build up one idea and see it to the end in an hour or less.
Don’t think that flash fiction is just a puff piece. To truly grab the reader’s attention and keep him interested in the idea, even for a few short minutes, is a skill. Especially these days. You want to build tension right from the start. You have to build the backstory, the inciting incident, the journey, and the ending all in very little space. It’s an art in itself.
It is both fun and beneficial to experiment and write in a different way then we are used to. It builds us up as writers and develops our skillset. As Stephen King says, adding tools to our writer’s toolbox.
How Can Flash Fiction Be Distributed?
Your flash fiction pieces can be distributed in several ways. You can post each piece to your blog. Many authors swear by an email list. You can create a flash fiction newsletter and email a flash fiction story to your audience. You can save up your flash fiction pieces and incorporate them into an anthology book. You can post them onto Facebook or other social media or message forum sites.
Questions to Think About
- Do you have another idea on how to distribute your flash fiction?
- What story ideas do you have written down that can be turned into a flash fiction piece?
- What is your favorite part about writing flash fiction?