A Closer Look At Flash Fiction

Episode 10 of Webfiction World looks at flash fiction: the pros and cons of writing short stories, the different communities, and why you should give it a try.

My guests, John Wiswell and Angie Capozello, showed me up by have serious insight into the flash fiction community. Here’s a recap of the main points discussed.

Why write flash fiction?

To be a better writer, you need to write. It’s a simple concept: practice makes perfect. But writing flash fiction — and short fiction more generally — has unique benefits when compared to writing novels.

Flash fiction is short, under 1,000 words. It forces you to be concise and precise, it teaches you how to use your words effectively. There’s no space for infodumps or random descriptions; the challenge is to make your story engaging in a short space.

The short length of this form also makes it a perfect testing ground: you can try new genres, characters or writing styles, and if it turns out horribly, then you can move on. It would be far worse to be halfway through a novel and realise that it’s not going to work.

There is also a great twitter community surrounding flash fiction (FridayFlash, particularly) which means you can also get feedback — and if you want to improve as an author, feedback is crucial.

On the reader side, flash fiction requires very low investment. It’s generally free, and takes five minutes to read. It exposes prospective readers to your writing style, and gives you a chance to tempt them into wanting more of you.

Not to mention the numerous ezines out there accepting flash fiction submissions — even if they’ve already been posted on your blog.

So if you’re eager to give flash fiction a try, what should (and shouldn’t) you be doing?

Flash Fiction Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Be concise. If it doesn’t move the plot forward, don’t put it in.

  2. Don’t convolute. Too much of anything is too much, whether that is number of characters, points of view, time lapses, etc.

  3. Avoid word-counting. Don’t write 999 words. Be willing to experiment with how short your story can go.

  4. Push your boundaries. Try new genres, themes and writing styles.

  5. Don’t overplan. Go with your idea and see where it leads you.

  6. Write around the edges of your day. If you find it hard to make time to write, then scribble during breakfast or lunch, or write John style, in the toilet.

  7. GO FOR IT!

If you’d like to hear more about John and Angie’s work, flash fiction communities online, and whether chocolate trumps cheese, tune into the podcast.

In the meantime, any suggestions to add to the list?

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3 thoughts on “A Closer Look At Flash Fiction

  1. What’s sad is that I haven’t mastered this skill at all. Every story no matter what it is, always ends up being long. Any tips on that other than what you just said??

    • Maybe you are starting with too big an idea? Flash fiction is one scene, one moment. You should be able tp easily summarise the plot in one line – character, problem and resolution, like: man loses hat and goes crazy.

      Have you tried stream lining your ideas by creating a really simple and narrow plot line like that?

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