A Flash in the Pen: Flash Fiction Writing That Gives Readers a Buzz
To #writecampaign friends, visit back tomorrow for my #writecampaign challenge entry!
I’ve been in love with flash fiction writing for a while, and it has culminated in the collection A to Z Stories of Life and Death.
But I admire my fellow-writers and am always in search of good advice, so today, for Monday Writing, we have flash fiction writing advice from J.C. Martin. She is an author querying her first novel, and her short stories hand and flash fiction have been published in various journals and anthologies.
J. C. Martin is also one of the organizers of the Rule of Three Blogfest, a month-long shared-world fiction extravaganza starting 5th October— with some great prizes, and of course, a lot of exposure and constructive feedback for your writing. This is one Blogfest fiction authors ought not to miss.
From here on, I’ll pass the mike to my honored guest, so take it away, J.C.!
When Damyanti asked me to do a guest post on writing flash fiction, I was super-flattered. Me, posting advice on writing flash fiction, on the blog of the Dame of Flash herself? You can imagine I had my work cut out for me.
So here is my offering, and I do hope I’m not preaching to the choir!
Flash fiction, also known as micro-fiction, are short-short stories generally no more than 1,000 words long. Many are even shorter, like drabbles (100-word stories), and some can be as brief as a single sentence, as demonstrated by Ernest Hemingway’s famous masterpiece:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
What went through your mind when you read those six simple words? It definitely made me stop and think, and that is precisely what a good piece of flash fiction should do: make readers put the piece down, sit back, stare into space, and go, “Wow, just give me a moment to digest that…” Sure, reading the end of an epic novel could also make you do that, but no other length of work has a higher post-profound thinking time to reading time ratio (could you tell I made that term up?).
So how do we craft a piece of flash fiction that lingers on in readers’ minds long after they’ve finished reading it? Here are some key elements that I believe turns a bunch of mere sentences, into a story with depth:
- Maximum capacity: one plot, one scene, one character
In flash fiction, you don’t have much room to maneuver. That means removing all unnecessary plot elements from your story. No secondary conflicts or characters, sub-plots, back story, nothing to take away from that one main plotline. Similarly, pick just one scene or setting. Choose your main character wisely. There is no room for character development here. He, she or it must be compelling, without dedicating multiple sentences on describing their character and appearance. As you can see from Hemingway’s example above, you can have zero characters, and still create a cracking story.
Before the writing police come at me wielding pen-batons and chanting “Beginning! Middle! End!”, allow me to explain: the limited word count in flash fiction means there is simply no room for preamble or set-up. If you’re writing a story about a thief, skip the part where he stalks his victim, surprises her from behind and snatches her purse. If you start the story with a man running through the streets clutching a woman’s handbag, readers can fill in the blanks. And, it drops them right into the thick of action.
- Brevity is the soul of flash fiction
Save the purple prose for novel writing. When writing flash fiction, be short, sharp, and to the point. Use action words often and omit rambling descriptions.
Finish with one jaw-dropping revelation that the readers won’t see coming, as (hopefully) illustrated by my 100-word flash, Brainiac,
published online HERE
Do you enjoy flash fiction writing? Have I missed out any important advice?
J.C. Martin works as a martial arts instructor to fund her writing obsession. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies, including New Asian Writing, Pill Hill Press and Static Movement, and she is the winner of the 2010 Story Quest Short Story Contest organized by IFWG Publishing. She co-edited the Stories for Sendai charity anthology, in aid of victims of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami. J.C. blogs at J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer
, and you can also find her on Facebook
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