Life is busy. There’s kids, cooking, work, grocery shopping, and all-too-often trips to the ER. Sometimes opening up a good book feels like a vacation—which is probably the only time you have to read.
And then you’re a writer, so you must write. But what do you do when all of those kids and chores and stitches interfere, the clock has struck midnight, and you’re still scraping burnt chicken Cacciatore from the bottom of your frying pan?
Enter Flash fiction.
A story fewer than 1,000 words—complete with a beginning, middle, and end, dialogue, character development, and conflict. All of that in less than an hour.
Flash fiction is my go to when I’ve just finished a big project and need to write without pressure. It’s what I write when I want to experiment with a new genre. It’s what I read when I’m sitting in the preschool drop-off line. It’s where beginning writers go when they need to practice, increase publishing credits, and build a platform. It’s where experienced writers get their book in front of a new audience and refine their craft.
Flash fiction isn’t easy. Have you ever written a synopsis? Did you have to cut that synopsis down by half because telling an entire 85,000 word book in three, double-spaced pages seems impossible? Try telling an entire story in 700 words.
You’ve got to be ruthless with extraneous words, picky with description, and clever with dialogue. Everything must do double duty. Can two characters be combined into one? Do we really need to know the hero has a smoldering gaze and killer biceps? Can you wrap up the story three paragraphs early and leave the reader with only the tantalization of what’s to come?
Here are six tips for writing great flash fiction:
Don’t rely on telling. It’s tempting because it’s so much faster, but the same rules for writing a good novel apply to good flash fiction.
Pick a moment or scene. You can’t tell an entire story, from the meet cute to the HEA, in one or two pages.
Stick to one POV and only a few characters. Less is more with flash fiction. Let us get to know one character well, instead of just barely understanding three.
Eliminate backstory. A line or two sprinkled throughout is enough to tell us what we need, and if it’s not, maybe the backstory is the real story.
Conflict is important. Make sure the character doesn’t get what he wants until the end. It’s just as easy to put down a boring flash fiction piece as a boring novel.
Remove anything nonessential—modifiers, descriptions, adverbs, redundancies, explanations, and boring bits. If it’s not pushing the plot forward, get rid of it.
Everyone wants things that are fast—cars, phones, food, entertainment, and fashion. Most people will not read War and Peace because of the length. Many ignore novels altogether. Flash fiction is a way to capture new readers and it’s a virtually untapped—yet growing—market. So, hurry up and write something short. Something powerful. Something sweet. Something marvelous.
Something written in an hour and read in five minutes can stay with you long after you’ve finished five loads of laundry and brought your child to the hospital for another cast.
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Bio: Kimberly Duffy writes historical women’s fiction and romance when she’s not homeschooling her four children. She’s lead editor for Spark Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group, and a Genesis semifinalist. In her free time, she scours Goodwill for cute outfits to feature on Instagram and wishes she could drink coffee.