How to write flash fiction


Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending an inspiring workshop on flash fiction, led by the brilliant Linda Grierson Irish, whom I met on the Comma Press short story course.

I have dabbled with the form before, naively assuming that because of short word counts, flash fiction pieces would be quicker and easier to write than what’s traditionally described as a short story. I soon realised the error of my ways.

There is a real skill in being able to create a world, bring a character to life and tell a whole story in just a few hundred words, or sometimes less. Some of best examples have an ending which ‘rings like a bell’, leaving the reader to continue the story in their minds. (This particular story by Kit De Waal has really stayed with me).

I’m now on a mission to try and improve my flash craft. Here are some flash fiction top tips that have stayed with me from the session. Thanks Linda!

  • Start late and leave early – Don’t worry about setting up the place and the character’s back story, there aren’t enough words. Start in the middle of the action and trust the reader to fill in the gaps with their imagination.
  • Every single word needs to work hard – Do you really need those two sentences when one is enough? Be brutal and chop out unnecessary adverbs. E.g. She shuffled slowly.
  • Show don’t tell Nothing new here, but it’s really important to remember this when writing flash. As readers, we don’t want to be spoon fed every detail, but the story still needs a good scaffolding.
  • Don’t introduce too many characters – With so little words, things can get confusing. Think about one or two characters and what can be revealed through this small window on their world.
  • Experiment! – Flash in itself is an experimental genre. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself with language, setting, pace or point of view. Once you’ve written your piece, why not flip the ending round completely? Or give your character a different quirk or accent. What does this do to the piece?
  • Titles are really important – A tip I’m definitely guilty of forgetting. Titles should be used wisely, to give readers some additional insight or help set up the story. Don’t waste the opportunity.

Any more to add to the list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Published by JanelleHAuthor

I’m currently writing my debut novel, ‘Up to the Stars’ (working title). If you love the work of Rachel Joyce, Mike Gayle, Kit de Wall, Beth O’Leary and Lia Louis, then I’m writing my book for you. What else might you like to know? I’m a Yorkshire lass in Manchester. I married my childhood sweetheart. I regularly engage in tsundoku – apparently it’s a Japanese word which means buying lots of books that you’ll never get round to reading. I also sing.

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