Flash fiction is any short story under 1000 words. Sometimes, flash is only 50 words. But just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s easy to write. Here are ten flash tips on writing good flash fiction.

  1. Read flash. The best way to learn how to write a form is to read a lot of it. Flash fiction doesn’t take a long time to read. You can finish ten great stories on your morning commute.
  2. Start in the middle. Flash fiction is short, which means no time for waffle. Start your story at the inciting incident – you can even start after the inciting incident. Get to the protein, bypass the carbs.
  3. Every word counts. No waffle. All bacon.
  4. Character is crucial. Your characters need to be strong, and there shouldn’t be too many of them. Flash thrives on the single-character story. Every character you introduce needs space to grow. Keep it tight.
  5. Find the kernel of the story. This is not the place to meander around looking for purpose. You need to find the core truth of your story, and you need to find it fast. Flash is fiction pared to its barest elements.
  6. Don’t go big. If you want to write an epic, don’t write flash. You don’t have the space for sweeping drama. Flash is best when it focuses on tight timelines and tense inter- and intra-personal conflict. There’s no space for quests.
  7. Keep it to one complication. Again, with such a small amount of space, you need to focus on only one plotline. No side plots.
  8. Think moment, not year. The best flash fiction takes place over a short period of time. The stories are little, and so are the dramas. But just because they’re little doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful or life-changing.
  9. Cut, cut, cut. Write long. Edit like an unethical backstreet surgeon. Does your story need both kidneys to function? Cut out all the extraneous matter. Leave your story to wake up in a dingy hotel bathtub full of ice.
  10. Make your end a gut-punch. The best flash fiction grabs your audience by the ears and body-slams them. Don’t make it a cheap twist ending; make your ending powerful for the characters, and the audience will follow. If you can make someone cry in 500 words, you know you’re on the right track.

QWC’s first Flash Fiction Prize is open until 30 November 2017. First and second prizes include publication in March issue of WQ magazine, plus online publication for winners and shortlisted entries. More information


This article first appeared in QWC’s Writing Queensland (WQ), a quarterly magazine and online site for QWC members featuring articles on writing and publishing. To have access to all WQ articles, join QWC today for as little as $50 per year: qldwriters.org.au/membership.

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