From my research, the suggested word counts for flash fiction in this electronic reading age were:
Less than 1,500
300-1,000 (10-300 is micro fiction)
100 – 1,500
Up to 100
What are the elements that must be included in flash fiction?
Beginning, middle, and end
Characters, setting, and predicament
Struggles, conflict, resolution
So, flash fiction requires everything a novel provides. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35 is a good example of early flash fiction.
How does one write flash fiction?
Flash fiction writers depend on these skills:
Focusing on one theme.
Setting the stage with an image that hints at the story.
Revealing the setting through the characters actions.
Starting in the middle of the action with a strong predicament.
Designing the holes or left-out words to be as important as the included words.
Employing indirect means to get ideas across.
Letting the reader fill in the blanks.
Compressing wordiness into strong verbs and nouns.
Worsening the situation
Keeping up the suspense.
Giving the epiphany before the ending.
Resolving the situation
Finishing with an emotional punch—not necessarily a gotcha but an ending that causes the reader to continue to think about what’s happened.
Flash fiction is about a moment.
Readers like space on the page.
Here’s my flash fiction piece that made it to the finals in ACFW SF Bay Area’s Elevator Fiction Contest. We were allowed 250 words. I’ve revised it in response to judges’ comments.
Derek winked at himself in the mirror. “You’re the man.”
He grabbed his keys. There lay the not mailed electric payment.
“Man!” He’d be lucky to have power tonight.
He jogged to his truck. Time for a stop at Julie’s? Oh, yeah. Then the post office. Then get him a cola and maybe get to work on time.
Julie’s mama opened the door.
“Hey, Mama Garth.”
“Don’t Mama Garth me. She’s gone.”
“Do I need to spell it?”
“It’s spelled you’re irresponsible,” Daddy Garth shouted from inside.
What’d made the Garths so grumpy? Derek pulled into the mini-mart.
“Hey, Derek! Hear you lost your woman,” Boyd yelled from the Rook table in back.
Fear niggled Derek’s gut. “What you been smokin’, Boyd?”
Jerry aimed a finger at Derek. “The truth, you fool.”
Was everybody crazy? He forced a grin. “Later, girls.”
Derek sped, gulping cola. No time to stop by Julie’s work. But he would.
The electric bill lay on the passenger seat. Man! He gunned the truck, swerved into a lot, and braked alongside the red-white-and-blue mailbox as a mail van pulled away from it with Wednesday’s pickup.
He flung the bill toward the slot. It hit metal and fluttered to the pavement.
Outside the truck, Derek groped under the mailbox.
He withdrew a pink envelope.
What the…? Addressee: Derek Williams. Sender: Julie Garth.
How long had it lain there?
He ripped it open. Derek, no diamond on my finger by Tuesday, I’m gone.
Research, suggestions, and tips in writing popular flash fiction. Click to tweet.
Archetype is defined here as a type of person whose typical behaviors are the same as those of others of the same type. For example, cowards exhibit some typical behaviors. They fear danger, lack courage, and avoid or quit dangerous situations.
Before I list 79 archetypes and a way to use them, here are some of their benefits in fiction.
Why Archetypes Are Useful in Building Character
They can help to
define the roles of characters.
narrow our characters so they’re not like all the other characters in our story.
expand and deepen our characters so they are multidimensional.
add interest to a character when using a distorted version of an archetype.
make a character original when choosing an unexpected archetype.
make realistic and identifiable characters because archetypes are built on real typical behaviors.
create conflict, tenderness, and tension when characters appear together in groups because each has a unique mixture of archetypal behaviors.
remind us to make characters act, react, and make choices in accordance with or occasionally the opposite of their archetypes.
bring out flaws in a character that he can conquer by story’s end.
An Easy Way to Use Archetypes
For each character above, choose two to three archetypes from the list below. Mix up archetypes across characters.
Start with the Protagonist and understand from his combination of archetypes, how he thinks, acts, and reacts and what he dislikes in others.
For the Antagonist, perhaps he’s the epitome of what the protagonist dislikes. Or they have characteristics from a same archetype that helps them understand each other.
Since readers like the idea that opposites attract, choose at least one archetype for the Love Interest that’s opposite to one of the Protagonist’s.
The Mentor doesn’t have to be wise. Possibly, he’s accomplished in the area where the Protagonist is weak.
The Sidekick could be a combination of archetypes, some the Protagonist likes and others he tolerates. Possibly, the only thing that makes them a team is how loyal the sidekick is.
Protagonist: an analyst, an explorer, and an imposter.
Sidekick: an addict, pessimist, and loyalist.
What came to mind is:
Dickson is a young college man. One summer, he poses as a census taker and travels from town to town to collect data and write a paper on the perfect single woman. While he charms young women, he records 1-10 ratings for twenty traits he deems important.
Dickson’s teenage brother, Dean, travels with him. The only things that placate and keep Dean with Dickson is the promise of receiving a used jeep and a daily supply of three six-packs of diet soda loaded with caffeine. He believes Dickson won’t find the perfect women going door-to-door, and he reminds his brother daily of the fact. But as long as he has his caffeine fix, he faithfully keeps the truck running in case he spots a cop cruiser or Dickson’s interview ends badly.
79 archetypes and how to use them to create interesting characters. Click to tweet.
What archetypes could you pull together to make an interesting character?