How to Write Flash Fiction

5 steps to creating a satisfying short story

Alex Kilcannon

--

I enjoy reading flash fiction. I love writing it even more.

Flash fiction is generally any story that comes in under a thousand words — some definitions or marketplaces will allow you up to fifteen hundred. Anything over that and you’re into short story territory.

There’s no lower limit to flash fiction, but under three hundred words, you’re in the realms of micro-fiction.

So, how do we get a complete and entertaining story into such a tiny word count?

Sometimes, I find flash stories flow easily and a spark can come from anywhere. Other times, I have to work harder to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve found it can help if I make a framework for myself by creating a character and motivations and see what happens.

When I’m stuck, I sometimes use the following exercise. I’m not claiming the credit for this. I’ve cobbled it together out of workshops I’ve attended and websites I’ve followed over the years. It’s writing advice that I’ve distilled into a method that works for me when inspiration runs dry.

It’s not the only way to create short fiction, but it’s fun to try. Maybe it can help you create some new fiction too.

We’re going to look at how to create a piece of writing under seven hundred and fifty words long from scratch. Word-count limits are your friend.

I’ll read any type of flash fiction, but in writing it, I find it much more satisfying to create a complete story. This means a beginning, a middle and an end.

There are four things we’re going to include in this five-step process. Try them out first to see if they work for you, then next time around bend or break these ‘rules’ as you please.

“The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” — Captain Hector Barbossa

Guidelines

  1. There will be a main character but minimal, if any, secondary characters.

2. Conflict needs to exist to drive the story.

--

--

Alex Kilcannon

Writer, poet, outdoors instructor and Mother of Teenagers. I rewild kids for a living.