We’ve got the lovely Laura L. Zimmerman on the blog today talking about flash fiction. We can’t wait to hear what she’s got to say!
What exactly is flash fiction? I get asked this question a lot. To be honest, I didn’t actually dive into the world of flash fiction until 2016. Soon after the New Year, I got into a conversation with a friend about it. When she explained the “rules” that surround flash fiction, I very earnestly said, “There’s no way I could write a story that short!” and promptly denied any desire to ever attempt to do so.
However, my inner competitive spirit wouldn’t allow me to walk away. I sat down, tried it out and haven’t looked back since. I’ve fallen in love with flash fiction and often post a new story on my blog on Fridays.
When I first jumped into this mysterious universe, I had no idea what I was doing. I Googled it and got just as many answers as I did blog posts. If you’re writing for fun, the parameters can be vague; if you’re writing for a contest or specific website, you’ll have more guidelines. Here are a few basic ideas that can help you on your own flash fiction journey.
- Flash Fiction is short. Okay, search the web and you’ll find mixed reviews on word count. One website suggests a flash fiction story must be less than 2000 words, while another denotes no more than 1000. The most popular opinion I’ve come across is that flash fiction is any complete story written in less than 500 words. My favorite stories to write are when I challenge myself to stay under 100 words. (This is so much harder than it sounds!) And of course, there are some writers that test their writing skills by crafting a story in less than 50 or even 10 words! (Sometimes called Micro Fiction.)
Whatever word count you choose, stick with it. Challenge yourself to stay within that count and do your best not to go one word over. It will make you a better writer and a better editor, as you search for that single word that can convey mood and can still move the plot forward. You won’t have room for a ton of world building or description. Think of ways to insert these things through dialogue. It can become a fun a game of words!
- Flash Fiction is fiction. Again, this is stating the obvious. But the beauty of flash fiction is that it can be within the confines of any genre—fantasy, sci-fi, romance, horror, etc. I just submitted a flash fiction story for an anthology about cats. Literally, the story just had to be about cats. So naturally, it turned into a fantasy about a cat superhero. (Because we all need one of those, right?)
When entering a flash fiction story to a contest or website you might have a specific category within which to write, or they may suggest a theme. I love themes because it helps narrow my brainstorming when it comes time to write the story. (Hence, my superhero cat story!)
Otherwise, you can write about pretty much whatever you want. Find a topic to write about in the same way you would create your full-length stories. Just think of a more specific situation that can be resolved in fewer words.
- Flash Fiction is structured. Yes, these stories are short. Yes, it is a challenge to create a story in so few words. But the story must still have the same structureas any other story would. No matter how few words, there is always a beginning, middle and end. Don’t forget to hook that reader from the first sentence. And do add a twist at the end of the story to make the reader walk away with that “ah-ha” moment. Show as much as you can. The main character should have changed or learned something over his short journey. Apply all the same rules to your flash fiction as you would to your other writing. This is exactly the same, just really, really short. (And don’t use the word really. That’s lazy writing. *wink*)
These are the basics of writing a good flash fiction story. Are you ready to begin? Don’t be shy and don’t be scared off by that word count! Take the challenge and see what stories you can create in just a few words. You might surprise yourself. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new way of writing that will take your career down paths you hadn’t expected.
Laura L. Zimmerman is a homeschooling mama to three daughters and a doting wife to one husband. Besides writing, she is passionate about loving Jesus, singing, drinking coffee and anything Star Wars. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and at her website Caffeinated Fiction.
Thanks so much, Laura! We appreciate you sharing your mad flash fiction skills.