Flash fiction guide

Flash fiction guide

One of the hardest things about flash fiction is the restricted word count and the skill of condensing so much into so little. I enjoy writing in short form (sometimes) because of the process of editing, replacing and shrinking- you are forced to be as powerful with your words as you can be.

There are so many different answers in terms of how long exactly flash is, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in the word-count, but you could give yourself a capping of five hundred words. I would say anything below two hundred would be micro fiction, but again, focus more on the art of fitting a story into a constricted number of words.

Five writing tips for flash fiction:

1.     Start your story in the middle (of its wider beginning, middle and end) and place your denouement in the middle of your story so that the reader can then ruminate on the decisions the character has taken as the rest spins out.

2.     Stick to one character- due to the shortness of flash, you don’t have the space to articulate two characters, so it is best to focus on one.

3.     Have a problem/conflict- but don’t over-complicate it so that other parts of your story are being compromised.

4.     Losing sentences- it’s always hard to chop off sentences that you have formed an attachment to, but it has to happen for flash fiction so you will need to face the chop- not easy, but necessary.

5.     The ending isn’t the ending- don’t give it all up at the end, what fun is this for the reader? End on an enigma so that the reader continues to think about it- leave your reader with questions and wonderment.

The key things to remember are; complete a story arc, remain enigmatic and be prepared to lose sentences you like.

An example of a piece of flash fiction I wrote.

Red Volkswagen

Rhode had gone from a town of harmonious candy-cotton fun to an untamed wildness. The summer was out and naked in its liberation and excess. The energy was palpable; music was pumping out from cars; a grandiose street vendor sang his sale; elongated skipping ropes bounced between people. Exasperated police smoked their cigarettes in avoidance of motioning authority. Sweat dripped from Karen's forehead down to her neck, creating shiny streaks in a somewhat repeated pattern and her sunglasses pestered her as they slowly but routinely, slid down her nose.

Karen put her car in neutral to get out and march up to the sluggish officers but remembered her caution of only one week ago.

Her plans for the day were as backlogged as the traffic seen in her rear window. Cars snaked behind and looked aflame in the heat, almost melting and turning to liquid.  The lights ahead were broken, and the still red light mocked Karen in its immobile, glaring state. Mercilessly, Karen swerved around the stationary car ahead and as if seeing herself watch her own actions, a red Volkswagen simultaneously had decided to do the same. They crunched into one another in one quick motion leaving their crumpled cars hissing out smoke. A pathway of blood trickled down Karen’s forehead. She limply raised her hand to touch the blood but with the ceaseless sweat, it had already reached her mouth. Karen lowered her head against the gummy black steering wheel and heard the faint sound of someone tapping on her window. With her head still draped over the steering wheel and drops of blood painting her bottom lip, Karen cursed the red Volkswagen, the heat, the town’s people, but mostly at herself. As if the voice was miles away, she could hear someone on the outside of her window. Through the gap of her steering wheel, she saw that the other driver was no longer in their car. Their door was open and a child’s car seat sat empty. Karen felt a wave of déjà vu run through her and arrest her insides.