I love Flash Fiction. I love reading it and I love writing it. If you’ve never attempted it, you really should.
Flash seems to be anything under 500 words these days, but that’s a little long for my taste. I prefer a 100-word limit. 200 at the most.
The smallest story I have had published was around 100 characters long. That was pretty short. It was also very surreal. You can read it on Issu. A novelist I met at a book event told me that he doesn’t enjoy Flash Fics as there’s no plot. Well, in 100 characters I like to think I had a main character, a backstory, a plot and potential for a sequel. Well, maybe not the last one, but I definitely constructed a story. Whether that was obvious is a point I’ll come to later.
I see a lot of Flash Fics that seem to be extracts rather than stand-alone stories, and they’re not a bad thing, not at all, but the promise of Flash is to get the story out as succinctly as possible, losing not just adverbs but description, setting, and where necessary, dialogue. However if someone wants I write a Flash Fic of nothing but dialogue please do, because I would love to read it.
Coming back to an ‘obvious plot’, more words probably work in your favour here. My story Strangers published in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology had a transparent plot – two characters physically touch on a train. This is vastly different from my micro-flash The Old Me published in Long Live the New Flesh, where the story’s theme heavily relied on the dystopian essence of the rest of the magazine to be clear about its plot.
So, what story do you want to tell? If someone has walked out of the relationship, what have they left behind? If someone has found a box, what sort of marks does it leave on the tablecloth. The trick is to tell a big story in as few words as possible. Instead of telling us about Dave storming out, show the vase that smashed because he’d slammed the door so hard. Don’t tell us about Sally finding the box – show us if she washes her hands or reaches straight for a screwdriver to open it.
The Bath Flash Fiction Award is a rolling completion for Flash Fics. Entry is £9 or £4 for members. Flex your pen and trim those sentences down. Show, don’t tell, and let’s cut fiction down to size.