Origins of Flash Fiction

In the past, writers have utilized flash fiction, or the short short story, as an exercise, but few considered this super short form on par with longer, more established forms like the novel or the traditional short story.

The name “flash fiction” gained popularity when James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka published a 72-story anthology by the same name. Now, fitting an entire story onto less than two typed pages is being recognized for the challenge that it is.

Requirements

While the most prominent requirement of Flash Fiction is its brevity, there is more to creating a successful Flash Fiction piece. The author must have extreme control of his or her technique so that the maximum amount of information can be communicated with the minimum number of words. In short, a Flash Fiction piece must have all of the same features as longer fiction:

  • A Beginning, a Middle, and an End are vital to any story, regardless of length. If these elements cannot be clearly defined by the author, them the reader will certainly not be able to do so. Without all three, the piece cannot be considered a story.
  • Interesting, Well-Developed Characters are important so that the reader will care about the characters and stay engaged in the story. A well-developed character is one with motivated actions who changes somehow over the course of the story. The change makes the character interesting. Character development is often the first thing to suffer as word count drops.
  • Clarity often comes with eliminating adjectives and adverbs. Simple sentences are usually clearer sentences and will also be more forceful. The character’s actions must drive the story from beginning to middle to end, and the imagery must give the actions context.

All of this must combine to communicate the writer’s unique point of view to the reader.

Starting Out

The most effective way to start a Flash Fiction piece is to take the original inspiration and write the story, regardless of how long it ends up being. Once the beginning, middle, and end are in place and the characters seem to ring true, go through the story and eliminate all unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

These descriptors are often nice embellishments, but are rarely vital to the story and without them the word count will drop dramatically. If the story is still over “Flash” length, consider each sentence in turn. Unless the sentence is vital to the story’s clarity, take it out.

Publishing Flash Fiction

Hundreds of websites dedicated to this new quick-fix lit have popped up. The requirements vary, with some sites and e-zines specifying exact word counts, but all provide a community dedicated to exploring this new genre.