Flash Fiction


Photo by J.D. Hancock [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

This is perhaps the classic example of something I just learned about today — flash fiction. This six word story has a beginning, middle, and end and leaves us wondering about the rest of the story. It was attributed to Ernest Hemingway, crafted to win a bet. This Quote Investigator article suggests the actual origins of this quote. The attribution to Hemingway makes good sense. Hemingway was a master of economical use of language, and in 1931 published a collection of 18 stories taking up a total of 31 pages titled In Our Time.

“Flash fiction” is a catch-all term for very short fiction works. A maximum might be 2,000 words, but can also include “Six word stories,” “Twitterature” (stories in 140 characters or less), and stories within various length limits: 50 words (the “dribble”), 100 words (the “drabble”), 150, 300, or 1,000 words (source: Wikipedia). Other terms include short short stories, micro fiction, sudden fiction, or quick fiction.

David Gaffney, one of the better known authors of flash fiction gives these tips for writing flash fiction:

  1. Start in the middle. You don’t have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character.
  2. Don’t use too many characters. …
  3. Make sure the ending isn’t at the end. …
  4. Sweat your title. …
  5. Make your last line ring like a bell. …
  6. Write long, then go short.

Writer’s Digest describes the appeal of writing flash fiction in this way:

Why would I want to write flash fiction? Flash fiction slush piles tower as high as those for longer forms, but the rewards are similar—and with a flash story, you’ve likely spent less time writing and revising. Opportunities run the whole gamut of publishers, and flash publishing credits can count toward those you need to qualify for membership in professional writing organizations such as the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. And no matter what you write, stringent word limits can challenge and sharpen your skills in ways that can improve even your long-form work.

So you might be wondering where you can go to read examples of flash fiction. Here are some websites I found that were a good starting place for me:

100 Word Story. It’s just what it says, an edited collection of 100 word stories.

Vestal Review. Claims to be the oldest flash fiction literary magazine, beginning publishing in 2000.

The Drum is an audio flash fiction magazine, for those who would rather listen than read.

Flash Fiction Online includes a graphic image and quote for each story.

Flash Fiction Magazine publishes a daily story and also offers a free e-book of stories.

Well, I’m approaching 500 words, positively wordy in the flash fiction world. I would be interested in hearing if others follow this genre, your favorite authors, sites, etc.

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