Posted in On Writing

What Is Flash Fiction? – One Writer’s Random Thoughts

Recently I told a friend how much I enjoyed writing flash fiction. He then asked me what exactly was ‘Flash Fiction’? After my somewhat long-winded reply I realised he was still none the wiser!

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So what is ‘Flash Fiction’?

I don’t know about you but my immediate response when I need to find out about something nowadays is to ‘google’ it. (I often wonder how on earth we survived without Google!) In this case I found myself poring over what Wikipedia had to say:

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category.

That seems almost as vague as the response I gave my friend. Interestingly, later in the article, I found this gem:

In China the style is frequently called a “smoke long” or “palm-sized” story, with the comparison being that the story should be finished before the reader could finish smoking a cigarette.

Being a non-smoker I’ve no idea what the average time is for smoking a cigarette but I love the whole concept.

The Bridport Prize have an article on their website entitled, ‘Flash fiction – all you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask.’ I particularly liked this description:

 I think ‘flash’ is a good name – and I have often written that a flash story is something like seeing a darkened room illuminated for a second by a bright light. You have time to take in most of it – but not all. You have time to notice things, but not the whole. Your mind works on the image, recalls what you have seen, and pieces it together again – adding context. The shadow in the corner… what was it? Was that door ajar? Who was that on the bed? Why were there three glasses on the floor?

I wouldn’t dream of trying to add my own definition of flash fiction but I thought I would share with you some of the places I get inspiration from.

Six Word Stories – Earnest Hemingway’s famous six word story is, ‘For Sale; Baby Shoes, Never Worn’. A great website, if you’re interested in reading or writing such stories, is Six Word Memoirs’

100 Word Stories – In some circles these are called ‘Drabbles’ and a drabble is defined by Wikipedia as:

A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

The concept is said to have originated in UK science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the 100-word format was established by the Birmingham University SF Society, taking a term from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book. In the book, “Drabble” was described as a word game where the first participant to write a novel was the winner. In order to make the game possible in the real world, it was agreed that 100 words would suffice.

There are a number of bloggers out there who put up weekly prompts for 100 word stories. One that I regularly contribute to is ‘Friday Fictioneers’ , another is ‘100 Word Challenge For Grown Ups’.

This blogger, Julia Skinner, also puts up a weekly prompt for 100 word stories from children that has a phenomenal following. The January 12th prompt had 1,078 stories entered for it! That’s the way to get children writing.

Twitter Fiction – This is fun, creating a story in 140 characters or less. It’s amazing what you can achieve. If you are looking for a daily prompt then check out, #ThePush

His local library had persuaded him to take out a ‘talking book’. It had been great to start with, but now the bloody thing won’t shut up!      (138 characters)

Five Sentence Fiction – A weekly prompt from Lillie McFerrin which she describes as – “Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word.”

Visual Dare – In this weekly prompt Angela Goff puts up some great photos as a prompt for 150 words or less, stories. I’m always impressed with the incredible photos, usually black and white, that she manages to find. They always get the creative juices flowing.

Trifecta – They put a prompt out every week. One week it will be for a 33 word story, the next week for a story between 33 – 333 words. You will meet some tremendous writers on this site.

Wolf – got a little job for you. There’s three pigs building houses in the village, right cowboys, lowering the property values. They need stopping. Don’t care how you do it, just be discreet.
(33 words)

Hopefully there may be something here that might inspire you to have a go at some ‘Flash Fiction’. If you do, let me know how it goes. Good luck.

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Author:

Now that I'm retired I have more time to devote to writing my blog and creating short stories.

10 thoughts on “What Is Flash Fiction? – One Writer’s Random Thoughts

    1. Thanks for your comments Bruce.
      I’ve just had a look at your blog and am extremely impressed at your aim to write a story a day. I’ve commented on a couple and will make the time to go back and read some more.

      Like

  1. I love writing Flash Fiction, and I respond to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction almost every week. Everyone is invited to check out my endeavors on my blog site under the category of Five Sentence Fictions. Five of the ones I’d responded to, with a little tweaking, are now scheduled to be published in an anthology of short stories involving HIV/AIDS as its theme.

    I’ve also submitted three other ones for consideration to be published in a new e-zine The Greenwich Village Literary Review.

    If you check out my endeavors for Lillie’s prompt words, you’ll notice I tend to add another level of difficulty in writing those five sentences by using the letters of her words to an acrostic. The more letters the word has the harder it becomes. To better understand what I’m talking about I’d to invite everyone to check out my response to the prompt word of “DANCING.” I’d love to read your comments.

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