When you try something new, your expectations are set quite high. Some people give up on the new thing when it becomes too difficult or when the high expectations they set for themselves aren’t showing.
Last year I decided to join in on the first #FlashFicHive challenge (hosted by Anjela Curtis). This month-long event challenged writers to create flash fiction stories based on all sorts of topics and prompts.
I’ll admit, I didn’t do so well at keeping up that month or in the following challenges (every other month, which is set to change to a weekly hashtag event starting February 1, 2018).
However, I did learn a lot about writing flash fiction (other than the 1,000-word limit). These skills, which I’m going to share with you, are continuing to help me as I attempt to hone flash fiction in a new goal this year — #52weeks52stories challenge (hosted by Hollie Hausenfluck and Avrin Kelly).
Lesson 1: Start in medias res.
Do you remember this term from high school English class? For some reason, I do. I’m not sure what it was in regards to, but I do remember hearing it in class.
In medias res is Latin for “in the midst of things” — English for “in the middle.”
A flash fiction story most often starts in the middle of the story — at the beginning of the conflict. There aren’t enough words allotted in flash fiction to start with a bunch of fluffy exposition, so the best thing to do is show your character gearing up for the climax.
Lesson 2: Write first without concern for word limits.
It’s true: flash fiction has a word limit. If we wrote the first draft with a limit in mind, then we’d end up missing key pieces to our story.
Lesson 3: Sometimes you will need to tell instead of show…
*Picks up writer’s notebook to hide behind before going on…*
Of all the advice we writers hear day in and day out, “show don’t tell” resonates the most. We’re always trying to create the perfect image in our reader’s mind.
One-thousand words doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for pretty little descriptions and extensive characterizations. Sometimes a character is simply an old man with a cane instead of the paragraph or two it would take to describe him.
“I’d rather let the reader supply the faces, the builds, and the clothing as well.”
-Stephen King, On Writing
With flash fiction, sometimes we need to let the reader do a little work… Let the reader imagine what the old man looks like.
Lesson 4: Dialogue can leave clues.
A flash fiction story will likely hold clues for the reader throughout, clues that many readers won’t catch until their second read-through. A great place to stash those clues is in the words spoken by the characters.
Not only does dialogue help the writer leave clues, but it’s another way for character building. What they say in combination with what they do can help the reader better understand the story and relate better.
*Challenge: I challenge you to read “On Her Birthday” and find the clues!*
Lesson 5: Seriously consider the hook, the title, and the last line.
The hook is an obvious necessity in any kind of writing. You want your reader to keep reading, after all.
The last line should echo out to your readers, becoming like a song they can’t quite shake. It can show the growth of the character, the theme of your story, or leave the reader thinking about what might happen next.
The title is probably the hardest task of all. You’ve probably lost sleep over titles before, but a title in flash fiction is another part of the story. It’s one of those clues we talked about earlier. It’s a part of the bigger picture. The meaning of the title should be evident by the time the reader thinks about it again, but it shouldn’t give anything away.
Your turn, so tell me…
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Do you write flash fiction? What have you learned about the genre?
If you’d like a prompt to work with, I’m finding this one from Rowan Fortune to be quite fun!
During the last year, I’ve come across several resources for writing flash fiction. You can pick and choose what helps you:
- “Quality Flash Fiction Is No Flash to Write” by Kathy Steinemann
- “Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction” by David Gaffney
- “13 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction” by Denise Ganley
- “How Long Should Your Story Be?” by Lee Masterson
This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop (hosted by Raimey Gallant), which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!