What is Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction goes by a number of names – short fiction, concise fiction, micro fiction, micro narrative, postcard fiction, short short, sudden fiction, cut-off fiction and in China it is known as ‘smoke long’.

Image from A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain. From The British Library image collection.
Image from A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain (British Library)

The universal feature of flash fiction is a restricted word limit; this varies on the editor, competition and publication.

Write it

Time is short – with a restricted word limit do not waste them on unnecessary scene setting or complicated explanations. You really don’t have that luxury. You will be surprised what your reader can deduce from small descriptive details.

Work the title – in flash fiction you have a limited word count, so use your title wisely. Also titles often do not count as part of the word limit.

Cast of thousands – It is not advisable to clutter up your story with too many characters; you don’t have the word count to flesh them out and it will confuse your reader.

Only one PoV – don’t try and do more than one point of view.

Break the rules – in flash fiction the story conventions of a beginning, middle and end can be broken.  You have greater flexibility than you would perhaps have in a traditional short story in terms of language, structure and style.

Leave them wanting – leaving your reader with a sense of suspense, not knowing what might happen next or how the story ends is not a bad thing.  Tying everything up tidily in a neat pretty bow is not always a good idea.

Check for Vital Signs: find Bridport Flash Fiction Judge David Gaffney’s emergency-room list on the Bridport website