One thousand or less: how to write flash fiction

I fell in love with flash fiction a year ago, and often use it when I’m stuck on a longer piece2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1) but don’t want to stop writing altogether. If I’m working on a larger piece of writing and get stuck, I like to write a flash fiction piece. When I do, I take a current character, or a new one, and explore POV to try to flush out my character’s personality a bit more. This helps tackle my writers block and helps me learn things about my character that I didn’t know before. Flash fiction is easy because you do very little writing and revising. There also is no genre limit. If you’re a historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or contemporary writer, you can write flash fiction. The larger question often asked is, “Can I write a story with plot and character development in less than 1,000 words?”

Yes you can! And I’ll tell you how.

  1. Start your story in the middle, or wherever the plot conflict begins. You don’t have a lot of room for a lot world building or large bouts of summary, so you need to develop your character and their conflict from the get go.
  2. Have as few characters as you can. I usually only stick with about two characters. If you have four or five characters, it will crowd your narrative and you’ll end up going over your word limit.
  3. Use lots and lots of showing and no telling. If this rule applies most anywhere it is here. You want to display vividly painted characters whose actions will stick with your reader. Also try not to use too many adjectives. You don’t want to clutter up your narrative.
  4. The ending should be as big as your beginning. You’re trying to get your point across to your reader in as few words as possible. That being said, no cliffhangers, or confusing drop offs at the end. You want your reader to have a clear vision of what happens long after the story is over.

Flash fiction is difficult to master. It doesn’t follow traditional story arc, and the shorter your word count, the harder it becomes to develop a character and plot. However, as writers we need to challenge our skills. Being outside of your comfort zone when writing is often where the most learning and inspiration is gained. Happy writing!

-Sharnita Sanders

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