• 3-minute read
  • 16th May 2019

How to Write Flash Fiction

How long does a story need to be? With flash fiction, it can be anything under 1,500 words. But what exactly is flash fiction? And how do you write it? Check out our guide for some tips!

What Is Flash Fiction?

You may find different definitions of ‘flash fiction’ depending on where you look, but it can cover any story between 100 and 1,500 words long.

There are also several types of flash fiction:

  • Flash fiction – 1,000 to 1,500 words
  • Sudden fiction – Up to 750 words
  • Microfiction – Up to 100 words
  • Twitterature – Up to 280 characters
  • Six-word stories – Roughly six words

These word counts are rough guidelines. Unless you’re writing for a publisher or competition, you shouldn’t have to stick to a strict limit.

For instance, while the most famous example of a six-word story is six words, you can write stories with more or less; the idea is simply to create a sentence that hints at or evokes a larger story. Like all ‘flash fiction’, then, it asks us to use words with care, which can be a great challenge!

'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.' – Six words, plenty of punch.
‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ – Six words, plenty of punch.

5 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction

So, then, how do you write your own tiny tale? Our top tips for writing flash fiction and microfiction include:

1. Keep It Simple

Stick to one main character and idea. You won’t have the words to spare for subplots, so the more focused your story the better.

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2. Don’t Worry about World Building

In a full-length novel, you would usually spend time establishing a world and the motivations of your characters. But this takes time, so you can’t do a lot of world building in flash fiction. However, you can make notes on these things for yourself and hint at them in your story.

3. Choose a Title that Frames Your Story

With microfiction, you can use the title to frame the story in a way that adds to it or changes its meaning. The key is to contextualise the rest of the text.

For instance, imagine how a reader might interpret a 50-word story called ‘Death Bed’ in which a character regrets the things they never did. Now imagine the exact same story but with the title ‘Wedding Day’. The way we feel about the character may change dramatically!

Typically, you wouldn’t count the title in the word count, either. So this can be a very efficient way of framing your story.

4. Write a Strong Final Line

The fewer words you have to play with, the more impact they must have. And there are few better ways to do this than to end on a bang. This doesn’t mean you need a sudden twist or revelation (these can seem corny). But you will want to end on a memorable line that leaves your reader thinking.

5. Write First, Edit Later

Finally, don’t obsess over the word limits. You should try to be concise as you write, but you can always edit it down once you have a first draft. And if you need any help with the editing, once you’ve collected a few stories together, you can have them proofread by the professionals.

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