I don’t know about you but when the sun is peeking through the window and the garden comes alive with spring flowers, I find my concentration waning. I stare at the keyboard while my body is straining to be outside. The other week was like that here in the UK. The pub garden where I sat for an after walk drink was packed. Winter white limbs were exposed and, I must add, Covid rules were shed along with quilted coats.
However, aware it is important to flex the writing muscle, I decided to take one character from my current work in progress and introduce her in a flash fiction story. I felt my attention span could cope with that.
Flash fiction is, in fact, very popular at the moment. Perhaps it is, as Randall Brown, award winning flash fiction writer of Mad to Love, puts it:
“The world – shattered and lying in shards – has grown tired of its pieces being glued together to create the illusion of something complete. Instead, the world hopes someone will pick up a single fragment and create out of it something whole, something that fills that compressed space with the entirety of all that there is,”
The form was popularised in the nineteenth century and perhaps the best-known flash fiction story is from this time (supposedly attributed to Ernest Hemingway). The entire story is six words long: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” There was such a wealth of emotion packed into these words it inspired many writers to try their hand at the genre.
If you explore further you’ll see that these stories share a number of characteristics.
They are brief, compressing an entire story into a few paragraphs. Commonly used word limits range from just six words to around 1,000 at the longer end.
The story contains a complete plot. A common mistake is to think flash fiction explores an emotion or memory
There is often surprise in the form of a twist ending or unexpected last line. It aims to persuade the reader to think deeply about the innate meaning of the story.
Writing flash fiction can be an exercise in creative restraint, it can teach you to show not tell, how a few words can do the job of many, whether you intend your work for publication or just as an exercise.
Can YOU write a story in 10 words?