Is Writing Flash Fiction for You?

by | Writing | 6 comments

image by intographics

How many words are allowed?

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?

  • image by RyanMcGuire

    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.
  • Limiting characters.
  • 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.


image by Comfreak

Quick Tips:

  • Flash fiction is about a moment.
  • Be Subtle.
  • 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.

What tip can you share for writing flash fiction?

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  1. Tanya Hanson

    Hi Zoe, I’ve never tried reading or writing flash fiction, to be honest, but your post intrigues me. Shorter the better LOL. I haven’t written a full-lengther in years, going instead for novella-length and even short stories. Hmmmm. Do I read flash-fiction in my future LOL? Maybe This is my year to take a break from writing, but I guess if I get the urge, this will be my next venue. Thanks for another interesting post. xo

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      It might be something you’d enjoy playing around with, Tanya. I know it’s an art for those who do it well, but I liked the challenge of honing down the story. Like any form, I need to read and write many of these shorts to learn to do it well.

  2. Jane Foard Thompson

    An intriguing story…I want to read more!
    I did some flash fiction some years back. It’s great for learning to make every word count.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I agree, Jane, that it’s a good exercise in learning to write concisely.

  3. KarlaAkins

    I love writing Flash Fiction! I’ve written for Splickety Magazine several times. I’d love to do a collection of short stories some day.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Karla, I hope you do the collection of Flash Fiction. It’s fun to know this about you.

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