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How to Write Flash Fiction Like a Pro

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

How do you prepare to write flash fiction?

You’ll obviously need a set of writing implements, an ability to write and an imagination. So let’s say you have all that.

Now what?

If you’re a plotter – someone who likes to outline their stories before writing – you’re naturally going to want to think your whole (itty-bitty) story over. Who’s the main character? What does he, she or it do or experience? What is the conclusion, and what steps need to be taken to reach it?

If you’re a pantser – someone who doesn’t believe in pre-writing prep – you’re naturally going to want to sit down and get right to writing. Whatever pops into your head pops into your head. You’re just along for the ride.

Depending on your personality, strengths, weaknesses and preferences, either way can work just fine when writing a novel or a traditional short story. But this isn’t a “how to write novels or short stories” topic you’re exploring right now.

It’s a “how to write flash fiction” task you’re taking on.

And flash fiction is a bit of a different beast than your standard creative writing.

If you really want to know how to write flash fiction, you need to first wrap your mind around what it is, which is short.

In fact, it’s so short – no more than 1,500 words by most definitions – that it requires some mindset rearranging before you begin. It might even mean severely toning down your preferred operational structure.

Or ditching it altogether.

Write down your theme. Or something like that.
Because flash fiction is so very short, you might not be able to stick with your normal mode of story-writing application: i.e., pantsing or plotting. If you’re a pantser, there’s no room for exploratory rambling here. And if you’re a plotter, there’s very little narrative to map out.
Knowing that, you might be better off thinking about theme. For instance, what moral do you want to share? No moral coming to mind? No problem. What about a visual you’d like to convey? Or how about some small experience you had that stood out for some odd reason?

None of that’s to say you can’t plot or pants. If you want to try it, go for it.

No matter how small the story or low the word count, a pantser can by all means just sit down and write, then heavily rely on editing afterward.

On the other end of the operational spectrum, a plotter is more than welcome to carefully contemplate the narrative in front of him. Those efforts are going to make for a very small bulleted list, but hey – do your writing thing.

In all seriousness, it might very well still work for you.

If you’re an experienced writer in this regard, you no doubt already know how to write flash fiction.

Maybe you plot it. Maybe you pants it. Or maybe you have some special in-between process you follow.

(In which case, why are you even reading this? You’re wasting valuable writing time!)

But if this is your first time or you still consider yourself a novice, it’s time to try thinking outside the normal writing box. You can do this by asking a series of questions.

  • Do you want to make a particular point with this flash fiction story-to-be? It doesn’t have to be anything political or heavy. It doesn’t even have to be original: perhaps just the good old golden rule on display or a reminder to enjoy the little moments.

  • Do you want to evoke a certain emotion? Pick an emotion; any emotion. Fear, love, delight, concern, joy… even bewilderment. There’s plenty of room to play there.

  • Do you want to offer a very set visual? Maybe a young man running down a wooded path. Or a single flower petal fallen on an otherwise clean and clear sidewalk. What could be said about those images?

Truth be told, there are stories to tell everywhere. And not all of them are long. They’re not all epic adventures or drawn-out tales of true love.

Sometimes they’re mere moments: wisps of consciousness that flit across our paths without demanding much time or attention.

That’s how to write flash fiction. You focus on the little things.

Then you show how those little things are worth noticing nonetheless.

Editor’s Note: Read the next post on flash fiction here.

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