“5 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction”
What is flash fiction?
It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. You might be thinking ‘How on earth can I cram a full story into less than three pages?’ Very easily, actually!
I was terrified of writing short fiction before I decided to give it a shot. As fantasy writers, sometimes comfortably writing books as long—or longer—than 500 printed pages, thinking of cramming a full story into 3 pages is daunting. However, I believe all forms of writing strengthen you as a writer. Flash fiction, especially, makes you par down your words and forces you to get to the core of your story. But just because flash fiction is itty bitty doesn’t mean it can’t have meat. All the basics of good story telling still apply to micro fiction; you still need engaging, lively characters, a big problem, emotional depth, good pacing, and so on.
Want to try your hand at micro fiction? Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Pick one character and stick with their POV. You won’t have much room for character development, so pick the most intriguing character and write the entire story from their perspective.
- Pick a single problem. You won’t have room for subplots, so place your character in an interesting situation, with a “big” problem, and run with that for your entire story. Noticing a pattern here? 1 character; 1 problem.
- Skip character names unless they have significance. It’s okay to keep things simple in flash fiction. “The girl” or “the bear” will do just fine in micro fiction, unless there is a reason to name a character.
- Think of it like a scene. Scenes are like micro stories—they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The inciting incident will have to be a lot closer to the beginning of the story, if not the start of the story, but it may help to think of your micro story as having three distinct parts. George R. R. Martin does the “story within a scene” tactic quite well.
- Limit to one supporting character (for stories under 500 words) or two supporting characters (for stories closer to 1k). The shorter the story, the less room for multiple characters. Otherwise, if you try to cram three or more characters into an itty bitty story, the main character will become diluted and the story will start to seem crowded. Save your elaborate plots and huge cast for your super novels!
I don’t do any plotting when I write micro fiction.
I just start with an idea, usually a place, a person, or a thing, and just run with it, letting my imagination pull me in whatever direction it wants. Try it! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing micro fiction once I started.
Micro fiction can become an important part of your content marketing campaign, but that’s a post for another time.
As an example, I’ve included one of my flash fictions below. Feel free to post your own in the comments! I look forward to reading them.
*In case you’re wondering, the itty bitty story below weighs in around 400 words.
“The Merchant and the Mermaid”
A Fantasy Flash Fiction
The merchant had never been a rich man by any means, but that didn’t stop him from trying to acquire nice things. Things far above his earnings from hauling his weekly catches into the bustling, stinking market of the little seaside town of Aspire.
Saying Aspire didn’t have much to offer or that it didn’t look like much was like saying the sky is blue and fish lived in the sea. Those things were simply facts begrudgingly recognized—or ignored—by the Aspirians. Shiny, unique things of great value were hard to come by.
Which is why when the merchant caught a beautiful mermaid in his net one day, his face lit up in surprise and wonder.
“Hello,” said the mermaid, trying to untangle herself. “Do you mind? I’m running a bit late.”
“But you’re a mermaid.”
She stared at him. “Mermaids keep schedules, too,” she said matter-of-factly, as if he should already know this.
Beneath the waves, her long, graceful tail shimmered. Sunlight glinted along hundreds of tiny scales.
“I can free you,” he said, “but it’s going to cost you.” Her brows raised, so he went on, “One scale.”
The mermaid’s jewel-blue tail swished in the deep green of the sea. Those pink lips grinned. “If freedom is the price for one scale, what will you give me in return for two?”
He blinked and scanned his tiny boat. “What about this knife?”
“I have plenty. Fishermen drop them all the time.”
“Oh, starfish and sea turtles! Where would I wear that to?”
He pulled at his graying beard when she said, “I know! That! Give me that!” He looked around, and she thrust a finger at his wrist. “That!”
He lifted his arm to examine the worn band of braided leather. “This old thing?”
“Yes, I’ve never seen another one like it!”
“That’s because I made it when I was a boy.” Shrugging, he slipped it over his hand and tossed it to her.
The mermaid squealed with glee and threw him two glimmering scales. They landed in his palm, and his eyes widened. “These are sapphires!” The mermaid was too busy admiring her new bracelet, so he said louder, “You sure you won’t miss these?”
“I’ll grow more.”
“But I gave you junk in exchange for treasure.”
“Depends on the perspective.” She produced a knife—from where, he did not know—slashed herself free and dove beneath the waves.
K. D. Jones is the epic fantasy pseudonym for young adult author Krystle Jones. Krystle was born and raised in the small, southern town of Tullahoma, Tennessee. Reading and writing have been lifelong passions of hers. In addition to writing, she is passionate about information technology, Etsy, painting, and exercising. She believes you can be whatever you want to be if you’re willing to work hard. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and adopted fur babies.
Learn more about K. D. Jones at kdjonesepicfantasy.com.