What IS Flash Fiction, Anyway?

IdeaI’ve been writing flash fiction for a while now, and I love it. I began with Indies Unlimited’s weekly flash fiction contest and really enjoyed the writing challenge of winnowing a story down to the required 250 words. Then JD Mader was cool enough to open up his blog on Fridays to anyone who wanted to set a timer and try a little spontaneous flash. (Okay, sometimes we forget the timer.) I was hooked. I was so hooked that as the stories piled up, I thought about putting out a collection.

But based on some of the reader response, and a question from my father, I realize I left out one very important component: What the heck IS flash fiction, anyway?

Because she’s so good at explaining things (and because she wrote a really succinct post about the five elements of flash fiction), I’m going to leave it to one of my fabulous Indies Unlimited fellow minions, Lynne Cantwell.

As a general rule, flash fiction is considered to be less than 1,000 words long….Flash is a recognized format for fiction, with elements that each story ought to include.

1. A plot. To be clear, a flash fiction piece is a complete story. Just like a longer piece of fiction, your flash piece needs a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I saw one website that recommended writing an outline for each flash story. I think that’s going a little overboard; your outline could end up longer than the story. But if your story doesn’t have an ending – if, say, you find you’ve written a scene that could be part of a longer story, or even part of a novel – then it’s not technically flash fiction.

2.  Characters. You don’t have a lot of space to describe your characters, obviously, but readers should still be able to tell them apart. Use telling details that you can describe in a few words. Keep your character count low, and stick with one point-of-view.

You can read the rest of Lynne’s post on Indies Unlimited.

Here’s an example of one of my flash fiction pieces. I’d never written anything science-fictiony before, so this was a fun challenge.

Fitting Rooms

She strolled past a sign that read “Fitting Rooms” and caught a glimpse of the engineer’s handiwork in a reflective surface.

They’d done a good job.

She looked like most of the other human females she’d passed in the shopping mall. Hair like the others, a suitable length, the same vacant stare she’d emulated with the help of the simulation program. Now all she had to do was keep fitting in, and wait for the signal to start the next phase of her mission. They hadn’t told her what that was, and despite her queries, they still would not explain.

In fact, her trainer had taken her aside and said it was dangerous to ask twice, so she’d stopped.

Her attention was drawn all of a sudden to the collar of her shirt. Her reflection’s hand rose to straighten it, and she noticed that it was a different style than the type worn by the two females who’d just exited the rooms. That didn’t seem right. Maybe the engineer had made a mistake and had given her the wrong simulation.

She glanced up again at the sign on the wall. Perhaps this is where you go to be more fitting. So, following the lead of another, she grabbed a garment and disappeared behind the curtain.

That was when she felt the vibration. The chip implanted in her brain had been activated. Finally, she would know her purpose and how she could help her planet—but why was the vibration so loud? And that whine? It hurt…hurt…so sharp she gasped and dropped to her knees. The human females began to circle her, eyes questioning, hands reaching out, and as her consciousness ebbed away, the edges of her vision going black, she heard the faintest of voices in her mind: Independent thought detected…independent thought detected…indepen…

——-

Have a great weekend!

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

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