In short, flash fiction has all the elements of longer stories, but with less “fluff.” So, the challenge of writing flash fiction lies in crafting a complete story in under 1,000 words. How should you approach the writing of flash fiction? Consider the following four approaches.
1. Ruthless Editing
Some writers might try starting their flash fiction story as a normal story, then cutting the words down. This is a common approach to writing flash fiction, especially if your story isn’t far away from the 1,000 word mark. If you think you can cut a story down after writing it, then kill your darlings—and have fun with it!
Flash fiction stories require bones before you can put meat on them, so start with the story’s plot. With a plot-first approach, you start by writing only the details of the story, without any description or figurative language. Then, once the plot is written, you fill it with details until you hit the 1,000 word mark. This “fill in the blanks” approach allows you to keep the story to its most important details while still being complete.
3. Start with Poetry
Writing fiction from poetry? It’s more likely than you think. Many literary critics consider flash fiction stories to border the lines between prose and poetry, since it uses many poetic devices to convey plot. If you’re a poet as well as a fiction writer, consider writing your story’s plot in verse, then expanding that verse into a prose-poem or prose.
4. End with a Bang
For a flash fiction story to feel “complete,” it needs to “end with a bang.” The final line(s) of the story must leave the reader thinking long after the story ends.
The end of a flash fiction story must surprise the reader in some way. Flash fiction often offers a resolution to the story that inverts themes, uncovers ironies, or offers unexpected dualities.
Could YOU write a flash fiction story in, say, an afternoon? THIS afternoon? Why not try it? Take a notebook and pencil. Go outside to some shady spot. Scratch your head, put you pencil to paper and….write.
From an article on WRITERS.COM – How to Write Flash Fiction Stories – by Sean Glatch
It’s almost August, 2021. That’s the month my next book is being published, although it’s available some places already.
It’s HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE, the first in my new Shelter of Secrets miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. That miniseries is a spin-off of another, also for HRS, that was called K-9 Ranch Rescue.
And I’m delighted to have HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE published! My last novel was published in February 2020, and that’s a long time between books for me.
It’s my 54th traditionally published novel, so most often there have been several a year. Was this gap a result of COVID? I don’t think so, unlike a lot of things that seem to be delayed these days. It just was.
So how can you plan for a lot of traditionally published books to be published, and have several come out each year? I don’t really know!
Oh, it helps to write for more than one publisher. I’ve tended to write cozy mysteries and Harlequin romances at the same time.
And it helps also to write for different lines for the same publisher. I’ve written for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne at the same time. However, Nocturne, their paranormal line, will no longer be published.
These days, a lot of people self-publish. I ponder that now and then, and may do it someday. But while I have good relationships with traditional publishers, I’ll probably hang out there some more.
Am I writing for anyone other than Harlequin now? Yes. My first Alaska Untamed mystery, BEAR WITNESS, will be published next February by Crooked Lane.
Oh, and in the meantime, my next Harlequin Romantic Suspense, UNCOVERING COLTON’S FAMILY SECRET, part of the Coltons of Grave Gulch miniseries, will be a November 2021 release.
So although there’d been a bit of a gap between my last published novel and my current one, I’m delighted to say there’ll be more soon. I am working on my next Colton book in the next HRS miniseries. And I’m hoping for even more beyond that!
And you? What’s your preferred way of writing and publishing?
Either way, or both, I hope you’re highly successful!
Do you ever feel that your life seems to have been turned upside down these last couple of years? Topsy-turvy. All those goals you had listed, carefully planned, trips scheduled, Writers’ Conferences booked. Gone. Banished. Cancelled. Due to the Covid pandemic lock-down. So, you took a deep breath and made yourself a cup of tea, coffee or poured a nice glass of something stronger. “Okay,” you told yourself, “I can manage this. Find another approach…”
How did that work out? Do I hear peals of laughter?
I recall that in my Blog of November 2015, Time Out – To Remember, I was overwhelmed with a too-busy schedule and too many other things on my plate and on my agenda, when all I wanted to do was write my next novel. “Don’t you sometimes wish,” I unwittingly wrote,” you could stop the clocks – just for twenty-four hours – so you could catch up?” I’d become so busy with my other work, there was no time for my writing. I was thwarted by my promise to at least write during my lunch hour, realizing I didn’t have time to stop for lunch. Weekends free to write? I wish…
So, the Covid 19 shut-down should have provided that time – not just 24 hours – but fifteen months to catch up. Yikes! Except that’s not what happened for so many. First was the traumatic health concern and challenges. Then came financial loss to small businesses and to those who ran or worked at those businesses and to the self-employed who relied on customers. I think the techies of the world probably made out okay. But once the external/in-person meetings, lunches, appointments, travel, shopping, et al, stopped – so many other things took over our lives.
As for those with large families, lots of kids in need of an education, all crammed into the house for longer than a couple of days at Holiday Time. That must have been fun – or not! (Sometimes there’s an advantage to being a singleton again.)
On the upside, was the massive de-cluttering we all did. Very therapeutic, if time consuming. After that forced isolation went way beyond the initial thirty-days, we adjusted to our own company – which writers relish. I did eventually write – several different things, still incomplete. I did a major edit, too. So many other writers I know had the chance to try writing something totally different, venturing into different genres.
It gave everyone the chance to re-evaluate the path they had been on and ask, ‘Is this how I really want to spend my life?’
A lot of people decided to move house – across country, some returning to their family fold, others found the place of their dreams. Some even moved across the world. Others discovered that, like us writers, they could work from home anywhere. New careers were created, less-stressful jobs accepted. Our world was topsy-turvy.
Serendipity, the Oxford English Dictionary says, is “The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident” Or – when you start out in one direction and fate takes you in a different direction. Sort of like Yak Shaving…. Remember Yak Shaving? It’s when you start out to do something fairly simple, but have to accomplish small steps (or annoying distractions) along the way, before you can complete your original, simple task. And so, that early morning chore is still not completed when, exhausted, you fall into bed that night and promise, “I’ll try again tomorrow…”
But we’re a resourceful lot, us humans. We worked through trials and tribulations.
We reinvented not only ourselves, but our lives. At times some of us felt like Sisyphus, pushing that rock uphill, only to be so close to the top when it rolls back down to the bottom and forced to start again. But we don’t give up.
And as the world begins to open up again, we pick up the pieces of our former lives, now with clearer eyes, so we discard the bits that we no longer want – and add new ventures, new goals to our To Do lists.
For me and many writers, we’ve missed the in-person writers’ meetings and conferences, where we meet up with old friends from all over the world, and we make new friends, new contacts. In our recent lock-down world, we stopped our instinctive human connection with others and now are gingerly learning social graces again. Do we hug, do we shake hands (That seems currently a taboo!), do we wave-from-a-distance, nod a ‘hello’ – what’s acceptable? Hey – I’m a hugger, as much as I can be these days.
A be-masked clerk at the DMV told me she was terrified of seeing people’s faces again. She didn’t know how she’d react! How sad, I thought. I can’t wait to see everyone’s smiles again. I love the unspoken language of expressions. I’m always ‘reading’ people’s faces – just as we read their body language.
So, okay, everyone. Are we ready for this new world? Considerate and understanding of some folk’s cautious behavior, while rejoicing the exuberance of others celebrating the new freedom. The lock-down has left many with new challenges with finances, health, mental-health issues and facing new lives, new careers. We’re putting our lives back together. All of us. It’s like writing a mystery novel, where we purposely misdirect the readers and plot red-herrings and diversions. But at the end, we writers have to tie it all together for a flourishing dénouement.
And so with our lives, this new, topsy-turvy world is waiting.
What fun. What larks, eh Pip? ***
*** In case any young ones are wondering who is Pip: It’s Pip in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations – and this is a favorite quote of Judy Dench.
It’s summertime, so let’s have some fun. Inspired by Jackie’s piece on Spine Stories, I decided to update my “Fun With Writing” post from five years ago – here goes:
One Picture Is Worth….
Many groups and websites offer pictures for writing prompts; this is different. If you’ve seen any of the greeting card lines that use old photographs and insert funny comments, then you know what this is about. Select a picture from your photo album or a magazine and write a line or two about it. It can be funny, like one of my favorite birthday cards, which shows a pregnant woman with two pre-school children. The caption: All I wanted was a back rub. It can be poignant, a reminder of how things were vs how they are now. See if you can come up with a clever interpretation of the photo. You don’t have to write a thousand words.
This is an exercise that my local Whidbey Writers Group has done in the past. One person (usually the host) comes up with a concept and the group has ten minutes to write something. Previous ideas include rewriting a scene from an iconic book, describing an event from the past, and having everyone volunteer a word, then write a short piece incorporating all the words.
If you’re in a writers group or have friends who are authors, try writing a scene featuring a character from another writer’s novel. Compose it in first person so the name isn’t revealed, avoid using any characters’ names or obvious settings. Then see if anyone can guess who you’ve written about. You can also have one of your characters interact with one of theirs.
If you write mysteries, you probably love at least one mystery series. Write a scene where your character meets that detective or P.I. Select a character from the same era as yours if possible, otherwise consider time-traveling the classic character to the present; think of how many modern-day iterations of Sherlock Holmes have been done.
Based on a witty book of haiku – “the zen antidote to road rage” – a subject rife with possibilities. It you want to attempt poetry, try writing dedicated to driving. If cars aren’t your thing, pick any topic that lends itself to commentary and use the 5-7-5 syllable format to ‘haiku’ your idea. For example, my take on social media:
Why do you delight
in photographing your meal?
I’d rather eat it
Last year I discovered this word-making game on the New York Times website’s puzzle section. I got myself and hubby hooked; we played it daily. It helped keep us sane during the pandemic lockdown as well as stimulated our brains. You don’t need a subscription to access the letters, only to play online. Or, play the DIY version:
Come up with as many seven letter words that don’t repeat letters or include S or X – a challenge in itself. When you have a list, pick a word at random; whatever day of the week it is, use that for your center number. Then make as many words out of the letters that include your center letter. Letters can be used more than once and four letter word minimum. No proper nouns, hyphenates, contractions or foreign words unless they’re in general usage, like pita or latte. Play alone or challenge a friend. Return the word to the pile and use it again on another day, when the center letter would change.
For example: Take the word MIRACLE. Today is Wednesday, the fourth day on the calendar. My 24/7 challenge would be to make words that include the letter A. Had I picked MIRACLE on a Friday, I’d have to include L in each word.
DYI “Mad Libs”
Take a page from a book, edit out a series of key words and play “Mad Libs”. If you’re not familiar with the classic game, you create a list of nouns, adjectives and verbs and insert them into a story. Try it with a classic novel, a current best-seller, something awful, or if you’re brave, your own work.
“The Dating Game” for words
The clever pairing of an adjective and noun can replace a thousand words, a great way to create the sense of languid prose with brevity. It’s how I came up the phrase, overpriced abscess, to illustrate a McMansion enclave set in a wilderness area in my first published short story.
An interesting two-word combination works in any type of writing, and when it succeeds, it’s like a love match. As an exercise, see how many ‘matches’ you can make. Then save them; they could be incorporated in one of your WIPs.
We at The Writers In Residence always say “writing is writing”, and sometimes mixing it up can encourage creativity. Try an exercise for fun or to stimulate the creative brain.
Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers in Residence, is the author of three novels in the A Petal In The Wind saga, as well as a contributor to anthologies including LAst Exit to Murder. She has recently completed the fourth novel in the series. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org