Being mindful of space is key in writing short fiction. One must craft an entertaining tale, featuring a likable character in crisis, convey action, dialogue, tension, drama, and offer a satisfying ending in a limited amount of words. Often in as little as 200 words!
Some argue that it can’t be done. They say a good story can’t be told so precisely. Others have done, just that. They’ve written wonderfully worded tales in this new medium Flash Fiction.
At AlienSkin Magazine, we confine flash fiction to the parameters of 500 words minimum and 1,000 words maximum. While this may seem a daunting task to those of you who are used writing longer fiction, stories can be told using less words. We receive a large volume of flash fiction on a regular basis. Enough so, that we are converting to an All Flash Magazine. Our readership and online stats show that our Flash Fiction and Micro Fiction sections receive the most reads each and every issue.
People love surfing the net. They love to pop into a site, read and item or two ~ items that quickly catch their eye ~ and then they pop out again on to the next site.
Readers enjoy good stories. They seek them out in print, online and as podcasts. They devour flash fiction during their lunch hour, between classes, during their ride home from school or work on their PDA. They savor more tales after super on their home PC, on their multifunction cell phones, and again, their PDAs.
Flash Fiction Sells. More and more markets seek very short stories.
But how can you, as a writer, be so precise and utilize such limited space to craft a well-rounded tale? How can you cram characters, conflict, action, and dialogue into such a short piece? Is there a formula for writing flash fiction that differs from writing short stories?
It can be done ~ it has been done. And the formula for writing such a short story differs only slightly from writing fiction that generally falls within the 2,000-5,000 word range.
Flash Fiction Facts
In Flash Fiction:
- Only 1 or 2 characters are active. Name them. Readers identify with realistic characters.
- One Point of View prevails throughout the story.
- Scenes are limited to 1 or 2; 3 on rare occasions.
- Dialogue is clipped for dramatic effect. Nothing is wasted on polite, etiquette speech.
- Conflict may involve internal turmoil or external stressors.
- Action must be concisely described and appropriate for the story.
- Description of setting and characters are minimal, yet vivid and concise.
- The first sentence must hook the reader.
- The story problem must be conveyed quickly, generally in the first 3 to 5 sentences.
- A resolution to the story problem must occur by the before the tale is complete.
Why Does Some Flash Fiction Fail?
The primary reason a writer fails to create a marketable piece of flash fiction is in the exclusion of one or more of the basic foundations on short story writing.
Such flawed stories lack:
- A realistic, defined character that the reader identifies with and cares about.
- A life-changing problem that is within the central character’s ability to solve or one that is indeed solved by the central character.
- Appropriate dialogue. Often such tales contain dialogue that is lame, melodramatic, or unrealistic given the story’s circumstances.
- Proper Point of View. Omnipresent point of view may distance the reader from the story. And first can’t be used if you end up killing off the viewpoint character.
- A satisfying ending. The ending does not have to be a happy one, but it has to make sense and the main character has to be affected or changed by it.
Other times, Flash Fiction fail because it:
- Relies on a gimmick or twist ending that most often seems tacked on.
- Contains a cliché or overused plot. It is true that most storylines and themes have been used repeatedly in fiction, stories convey them in a different and unique way.
- Utilizes generalities in describing action, character, and setting instead of specifics and vivid imagery.
- Raises more questions than it answers once the story has ended. Loose ends within the story have not been neatly tied up. They remain unraveled, causing the story to lack clarity.
Still not sure if Flash Fiction is for you? Not certain a satisfying tale can be written in so few words?
Read the Flash Fiction section in AlienSkin Magazine. We publish at least a dozen of them in each issue!