Wednesday, September 19

Wherein I Flash Everybody


Do you feel uncomfortable with flash fiction? Do you struggle to keep the wordage under a triple digit count? I know once upon a time I did. It just wasn't taught in any fiction courses that I've ever took. The only advice I ever got for the writing of it was as follows:
Prof: "Ya know how to write a short story, right?"
Me: ::hesitating:: "Uh, yeah. I guess..?"
Prof: "Well, you just make it even shorter."
In a way, he was right, but as far as advice goes, it's not the best.

Want some better advice? Here it goes.

I have a challenge for you. If you follow everything I state below and follow it to the letter, you will end up with a solid piece of flash.

How to Write a Flash Fic in 5 Easy (or not so easy) Steps*


Step 1. In one sentence, give us the CHARACTER, their PROBLEM and the SETTING.

Step 2. Have your CHARACTER attempt to solve the PROBLEM, have them FAIL, but have the situation GET WORSE.

Step 3. Have your CHARACTER attempt to solve the PROBLEM again, have them FAIL again, and have the situation GET WORSE.

Step 4. Entire the CLIMAX - have your character attempt to solve the problem one last time. They can either fail or succeed. It's up to you.

Step 5. Give their VALIDATION and wrap up the story.


That's it. That above is one easy formula that should give you the very basic structure of a flash fic. With these bones, if you have the room, you can still flesh out the more visceral or more comedic elements that make your story unique.

But what about world-building, you may ask. What about characterization? What about genre? How do I squeeze all that good stuff in there without starting to bloat?

Here's my advice: unless every world-building detail you provide in your flash is absolutely crucial to your plot, leave it out. Same goes for characterization. We don't need more than a line or a partial phrase of telling to get your character across. We just need some gist of the main player.

As for genre...it can be a bit of a pitfall if not used with a very careful hand. Especially if a writer is trying to experiment with a new subgenre or a complex world dependent on it. I highly suggest if you think your story is too complicated to sum up in a sentence at most, save the story idea for something longer because it doesn't seem likely that it's suitable for flash.

Flash fiction is designed to give just quick taste of something already identifiable to the reader, so it doesn't hurt to be entirely on the nose with well-established conventions and tropes for the genre. Readers will purposefully look for these sign posts in order to orient themselves and attain a better grasp on what kind of story that you're telling. If they can't spot these conventions, the piece may confuse them, rather than entertain.


*Credits for this How-To go the fabulous Timons Esaias, author of The Influence of Pigeons on Architecture. Find out more about him here, or here.

2 comments:

  1. That cannot be the advice I gave you...

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  2. It's a pretty distinct memory. You in jeans and a tee, sitting on top of a top, your feet on a chair, smiling.

    Although, honestly, you did spend a lot of classes in that position. lol

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