How many words do you need to create a story? The answer depends on what type of story you’re trying to write.
Novels and short stories are fine for creating rich, in-depth worlds and plots- but what happens when you want to give your readers a quicker experience?
That’s when you turn to Flash Fiction.
Flash Fiction is a style of storytelling that dates back to the age of fables and parables, but it gained popularity around the 19th century.
Since then, many authors have added Flash Fiction writing to their repertoire- including me!
But how do you write Flash Fiction? What makes it different than a Short Story?
I’m glad you asked!
There are four elements to a Flash Fiction piece:
- A max word count of 1,500
- Brevity (A fancy word for making every word count)
- A complete plot (beginning, middle, and end)
- Twist endings
However, Flash Fiction isn’t quite as simple as it seems. To meet the requirements, you have to know what you want your story to give the reader.
With that in mind, here are six ways to make your Flash Fiction shine!
1: Create Strong Imagery
Even though you have a limited word count, you want to make your readers experience the story. The best way to do that is by using strong imagery!
Example: “There’s a man in my basement. He lives in the shadows beneath the stairs and whispers to me as I do my laundry.” (A Basement of Shadows)
In 23 words, you know the issue (whispering), the setting (basement), the characters (unknown man, homeowner), and the tone of the piece (dark and irreverent). That’s the power of strong imagery!
2: Stick to One Moment in Time
Flash Fiction is supposed to “flash,” so don’t try to cram a year’s worth of events into your work. Instead, pick the most important moment in time and let it become the baseline for your story.
For example, my story In the Woods revolves around a few hours at night and what the campers experienced during that time.
It may be a short timeframe, but a lot can happen in the middle of the woods at night. Limiting your story can add a sense of urgency to the scene, inspire nostalgia, incite rage, or create other emotions that normally take time to develop.
You’re trying to create a flashpoint for your reader, so keep it short and snappy!
3: Keep it Limited to One or Two Characters
Too many voices or POVs can clutter a Flash Fiction piece and turn it into a short story or novel, and that’s not what we want!
By limiting yourself to one or two voices, you can keep the momentum flowing as the characters interact with each other, leaving room for important conversations, subtle hints, deeper emotions, and opposing personalities.
For example, my story about Flirting with Chaos has three characters (Lola, Ruth, and Al), but I never let all three of them speak at once. Ruth and Lola have conversations, then Lola and Al, and these distinctions keep the story flowing.
Therefore, it IS ok if you need more than two characters, but make sure they offer value to the story and wait their turn to speak!
4: Try Different POVs
Point of View (POV) is your narrator’s position when telling the story, and it’s essential to have the right POV when creating your Flash Fiction piece.
First Person allows the reader to make an instant connection with the story, while Second or Third person will grab the reader and make them a part of the action.
For example, The Artifact is written in the First Person POV, while Mermaids of Space is written entirely in Third Person. If I had switched the POVs between these two stories, it would be a completely different reading experience!
That’s why I encourage you to play around with the different POVs and find the one that makes your story shine!
5: Add a Surprise!
Everyone loves a good twist ending, and a Flash Fiction piece is the perfect way to practice those skills! By adding a twist ending, you can surprise your readers and leave them with different thoughts and feelings than before.
Plus, since the word count is limited, it doesn’t have to be subtle!
Take my story Ghost Town, for example. The twist is about as obvious as it can be, but it works for the context.
Twists can be anything you want them to be, so have fun with them!
6: Incorporate your Title!
The title is the first thing your reader will see, so make sure it grabs their attention! Plus, you can use it to tell them what the story is about, its tone, and – if possible- an idea of what the twist might be.
If you saw a story titled “Thanksgiving Day Massacre,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
I’ll bet money that you didn’t expect it to be about a hoard of turkeys attacking and massacring a village!
Titles can be creative and valuable parts of your Flash Fiction story, so use them to your benefit!
There you have it! Six ways to take your Flash Fiction writing to the next level. I hope they inspire you to take the challenge and see what fantastic and rich stories you can weave in 1,500 words or less!