How to Write Flash Fiction: What Is Flash Fiction?

I’m Anna Yeatts and welcome to How to Write Flash Fiction. This is our first episode so we’re just at the very beginning.
We’re going to start basic with what exactly is flash fiction. The definition
of flash fiction varies depending on who you ask. For our purposes, we consider
flash fiction to be a style of literature containing a complete
character arc and contained within five hundred to a thousand words.
Now there are a lot of other variations on flash fiction.
There’s Twit-fic. There’s a six-word story. There’s smokelong,
microfiction, short-short. There’s the drabble, the trabble, which one am I leaving out? Basically it’s any variation you can think of that falls
between 1,500 – six words? 49 characters? Whatever you can think of. If
it’s short, it’s pretty much a flash fiction, but again for Flash Fiction
Online, our submission guidelines say your story has to be between five
hundred and a thousand words. We’re pretty strict on that guideline so don’t
try sending us 1500 words. We aren’t kidding. But no matter who you talk to, flash
fiction has a few defining characteristics. One, a very short word
count. So make sure when you’re submitting your story you check the guidelines of
whatever publication you’re submitting to so that for a 100 word story, you get
100 words exactly. Not 101. Not 99. Not 98. 100. Have you heard of
Hemingway’s infamous story, “Baby Shoes, Never Worn” That one? Did you know that actually wasn’t Hemingway? Yeah, the link is down below. There’s a historian
who’s actually like chased this story down and they don’t believe he was actually
Hemingway. Anyway that’s a side note. Based off that story, Narrative Magazine
has a six word story. You could always try that. NPR has a famous
three-minute fiction contest. Cease Cows will give you 1500 words or
my favorite and let’s see if I can say this right is a hundred character twabble
submitted to Drabblecast which is a Twitter story. Yeah I said that right. I’m really proud right now. But for Flash Fiction Online, it’s five hundred to a
thousand words. So suddenly that seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Yeah compared to
these. Another defining characteristic of flash
fiction is that it’s an entire story. So if you thought that a smaller word
limit meant that you didn’t have to squeeze as much of a story into that
smaller cap well I hate to disillusion you but you still have to get it in
there and as we know all good stories have a beginning a middle and an end.
So even though we love experimental stories, most experimental stories still
have a beginning a middle and an end in there, even though it might be
unconventional as to how they do it. Now you’re probably wondering about vignettes and slice of life stories. Now if you don’t know what those are a vignette is like an evocative description or a scene and a slice of life story – think about your life as a whole
big giant pie – I’m partial to chocolate but that’s just me and a slice of life is a
little slice out of that so it doesn’t really have conflict, it doesn’t have a
beginning or an end. It’s just this little wedge in the middle. That’s delicious but it is not necessarily
nutritious and it’s definitely not a full story. Now this short format of flash
works beautifully finished shorts and they are lovely and I love them and
they’re wonderful but they’re not a complete story so they are flash fiction
length but they’re not necessarily flash fiction so if you want to sell your story to
Flash Fiction Online you need to make sure you get that entire structure
in there. I mean don’t get me wrong. We have stories that comes through slush
they’re absolutely beautiful and I want them. I want them so much
that Suzanne has to be like no no no you can’t have that. It doesn’t have an end. Whole story. Short word count. You can do it. All good fiction has conflict so flash fiction also has conflict. Now
because you have a shorter wordcount you’re probably not gonna have enough
room for epic battles between great countries and space operas and giant
spaceships whirling around the planets now that’s not to say that it
can’t be done I’m thinking about a story by Matt Dovey (I hope I’m saying that right, Matt) “This is the Sound of the End of the World” and I’ll put the link down below
where he does have a giant epic battle with the fate of a planet at stake,
So it can be done. So read that we for how you can do it the right way. But in flash
fiction more often than not you’re gonna see smaller more internal conflicts with
characters but conflict is still there it has to be there because that’s what’s
going to separate your flash fiction story from your vignettes and your slice
of life stories and your stories that just kind of wandered meaninglessly
often so you just go early and you know okay this seems like a gimme but we’re talking about the characters of flash fiction so I’m just gonna
put it out there and say all flash fiction stories have characters, Now I
know I know I know I know somebody out there is scrambling around to write me
the story that has no characters. Please don’t really. Please.
Even the Hemingway or the not Hemingway depending on how you want to look at the story of the baby shoes even if you say it doesn’t have characters the characters
are defined by their absence. They’re still present in the story. It’s just
that their stories happen offstage and we’re now looking at the consequences of
what’s happened we’re looking at the ending, at the resolution of a story.
They’re still there: the plot ,everything has happened. It’s carried out.
They’ve had the conflict and now we’re just feeling that tug on the
heartstrings because of these characters yeah there are characters. don’t go write that story. please don’t don’t don’t do it just just trust me okay I’m a pro
just trust me yeah and that brings me to the final
point the final point of what a flash fiction you’ve made it this far into the
video okay you have your characters right bear with me
they’ve made it through the beginning the middle in the end you thrown conflict
at them and conflict at them and what happens when characters encounter
conflict? They change and as your characters have changed in the beginning,
more conflict, they’ve changed again, we have a character arc. And that my friends,
a character arc confined in five hundred to a thousand words
is flash fiction and that’s the point of the story. While you’re here make sure to
subscribe to our YouTube channel Give this video a thumbs up and while you’re
here head on over to our website Flash Fiction and sign up for our
free newsletter. We’ll be sending you more tips and techniques and ways to strengthen your own flash fiction and short story writing along with writing
prompts so go ahead head on over and while you’re there if you have a story
just a minute go ahead and send that in as well. In
meantime happy writing

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