If you just want to know the top 7 or 10 golden rules for writing flash fiction stop reading now, open a new tab in your internet browser and Google, “Tips for writing flash fiction.” You will find dozens of articles that talk about the same rules over and over again, with only slight variation in presentation. These are all great articles, and I encourage you to read them as you won’t find that information here.
In this article, you will find the top 5 most important (yet least talked about) tips for writing flash fiction.
The tips below are the result of reading large quantities of flash fiction for years, both as a fan of flash fiction and as an editor reviewing stories for my clients.
So here is what have I gleaned from those countless stories and gallons of coffee consumed while reading them.
Wait you said you weren’t going to rehash the 7-10 golden rules? Hold that thought and keep reading. In Flash fiction, you must have 2 hooks (see I told you to keep reading)! The first hook has to occur in your title. Yup, that’s right, your title has to have a solid hook too! If your title isn’t enticing, thought-provoking, or the cause of an irresistible curiosity prompting the reader to venture further, then your 2nd hook won’t matter. Many readers cruise the titles to decide which flash fiction stories even to give a 10-second trial read. So unlike novels or even short stories, if the title doesn’t grab the reader relentlessly, then you have already missed the mark. Next, you need a story hook, a very strong one right in the opening sentence. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that placing the hook in the first paragraph will suffice, even if it is a decent hook. In flash fiction, you have to grab the reader right from the very first word and yank them through the story only releasing after the last word that appears in the text. Great flash fiction makes a reader feel exactly like that. Like they were grabbed by the collar and thrust into a new world, released only at the end of the ride. If a reader pauses while reading your story, it’s the kiss of death.
2. Never start at the beginning!
Flash fiction never starts at the BEGINNING of a story. Instead, it starts at the beginning of the most critical action sequence that occurs closest to the END of the story. In flash fiction, you have to start your story when something is happening and ideally at the highest point of the story arc. Just like any narrative, flash fiction needs a beginning, middle, and end with a solid plot. But you’re not going to have subplots. Focus on one plot and one main conflict. The conflict should be the most important one that happens in the broader storyline and acts as the driving force of the story. Therefore, the main conflict needs to appear almost immediately in flash fiction.
3. Tension/Tight Writing
In flash fiction, tension has to be strong and continuous. As such, tension has to present at various levels in every sentence. Every word and every sentence must move the story closer to resolution. Flash fiction by definition is typically under 1000 words. It is a unique medium, and it requires a specific storytelling skillset. Words often have to wear multiple hats, such as creating an action while also providing vivid visual details. You must be ruthless and make every word justify its place in the story and prove that it is adding essential value.
4. Don’t tell everything!
You need a solid storyline with very vivid details that can be shared in the least amount of words with all non-essential text eliminated. That said, the best flash fiction leaves some things out. It leaves clues to possible conclusions or reasons why, without stating the answer explicitly. It allows readers to draw their own conclusions, sometimes multiple conclusions about a single-story element. Good flash fiction digs its hooks deep into the reader’s brain, causing them to mull the story around in the back of their mind even when they don’t mean to think about the story. Don’t take it too far, however. Writers that leave too much of a gap or too much ambiguity just annoy readers, leaving them to feel cheated at the end like they wasted their time. Every reader wants some sort of solid resolution, so be smart in your approach.
5. Emotional Impact
All great fiction connects with readers on an emotional level. That’s what they’re looking for, and flash fiction is no exception. This is why you need to show, rather than tell, emotional attributes. Sometimes naming an emotion has its place, but showing an emotion builds a better connection with the reader. One way to create an emotional impact is to bake it into a twist ending. Many stories have a twist at the end, and it is almost an unspoken attribute of flash fiction. Readers like a story that leaves them with a punch in the gut at the end.
Now that you know how to write amazing flash fiction here are 6 paying sites where you can submit your stories!
1. Craft Literary -They pay $100 for original flash fiction. They also occasionally have contests.
2. Smokelong – They pay $25 and publish pieces under 1000 words.
3. Flash Fiction Magazine – They pay $40 for stories ranging from 300-1000 words.
4. Lamplight – They pay 3¢ per word, $150 max and 1¢ per word for reprints.
5. The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts – They pay $50 for stories up to 600 words. Submissions are open now from March 15-June 15, 2019 and the average response time is just 3 days!
6. Haunted Waters Press – They pay $3.00 for Penny Fiction, flash fiction stories told in exactly 19 words—no more, no less!
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