Rules of Flash Fiction and how to write it

Hello, I heard about this hip new craze (I’ll stop talking like Karouac now) called Flash fiction a while ago and had an idea recently which I think could work in this form. It got me wondering if there were rules and whether I should break them (groovy).

I happened upon this online, from a site usefully called How To Do Things:

Flash fiction is a form of short story writing that is very tight and concise. It pulls the reader into the story with the barest minimum of exposition and gets into the middle of the conflict quickly. A flash fiction story does have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but those elements occur in as few words as possible. 

There is no definitive word count for a flash fiction story. The most popular word count is one hundred words or less, but flash fiction stories have been known to go up to 1000 words and still be considered part of the genre.

Writers of flash fiction are very passionate about this writing form. It has been around for quite awhile, but has really become a popular form of writing since its enthusiasts have been able to spread the word and share their writings through the Internet.

Here are some basic steps to writing flash fiction.

  1. Start with a topic or sentence in mind. It can be something random, like a word that caught your eye in a magazine, or a sentence from something you’ve already written that you would like to explore further.
  2. Set a timer for your writing. Although this is not a necessity, most flash fiction writers like to limit their writing time. There is no set time limit, but many writers like to do their writing and editing in under an hour. 
  3. Write the story through from beginning to end without editing as you write. Write whatever comes to mind and don’t judge it as you write. There will be time for editing, but it will be later in the process, not during your timed writing.
  4. Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is also important to include other elements of fiction such as setting, character, conflict and resolution.
  5. Write in active, not passive, voice with as little extraneous description as possible. Flash fiction is powerful because it follows one of writing’s biggest rules-“show, don’t tell”-very strictly. Limit the adjectives, adverbs and descriptive phrases as much as possible.
  6. Reach for an unexpected ending. This doesn’t mean a surprise ending that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story. Your reader should be left with the feeling of “Ah, I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense.”
  7. When the timer goes off, finish your story as quickly as possible. Then set it aside for a while.
  8. When you pick your story back up, it is time to edit. During the editing process, you should make sure that you have a beginning, a middle and an end that tell a complete story. You should also be improving the writing by making it as tight and concise as possible. One method that many flash fiction writers use is to cross out every single adjective and adverb in the story.
  9. Once you’ve got the story where you want it, proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors and be done with it. This is flash fiction. It shouldn’t be something you belabor.

Writing flash fiction is not only a satisfying way to write an entire story and feel as if you’ve accomplished something, it’s also a very useful writing exercise. By practicing writing in an active, powerful form and cutting out all extraneous words, you can improve and tighten your writing in other genres as well.

So there you have it, get to it you crazy kids!