Why Flash Fiction is Awesome

| Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Today's Tune: Attractive Today

I love writing flash fiction. You can find evidence of this all over my blog. Particularly under my "writing samples" label. I love the freedom and the experimentation of writing in short form.

First: what, exactly, is flash fiction? It's a complete short fiction piece that's usually 1000 words or less. For more of a challenge, writers can restrict themselves to 500 words or less. Sometimes it goes as long as 1500 words, sometimes it's as short as 100. The goal of flash fiction is to write an entire short story, not an excerpt.

Even if you're a true-blooded novelist to the core, flash fiction can break you out of old patterns and reinvigorate your writing. It's fabulous practice and makes you stretch your writing muscles in a different way than you're used to.

Still not sold? Allow me to inspire you further.

Reasons Why Flash Fiction is Awesome

It's fast. I mean, duh, right? But seriously. You can write the first draft of a flash fiction story from a prompt in an hour. Maybe even fifteen minutes. If you have a shiny new idea that you're throwing around, but you're not sure it's going to work and the idea of dedicating hours of time to it is daunting? Play with it in short form first. See if it holds water on paper. I've found many novel seeds inside a flash fiction exercise I set for myself.

Some ideas are better in short form. Not every story idea has enough going for it to carry an entire novel, but that doesn't mean we have to abandon it. Certain storylines are cleaner and more entertaining if they're quick and easy to digest.

It's excellent practice. Let's face it: not everyone has the time or mental energy to dedicate to writing four, five, TEN novels before they figure out certain elements of writing. Writing in short form is amazing exercise for hammering out voice, style, and word choice. It's great for learning economy of words. You only have so many to work with, so you're forced to make each and every word count and pull its weight. Flash is also wonderful for learning story structure. You have to have all the usual elements of a story, albeit in an abbreviated form - inciting incident, rising action, midpoint/climax, falling action, resolution.

You can be highly experimental. Want to try out a new style? Have an idea that seems incredibly far fetched and you're not sure it'll work? Interested in playing with line breaks, weird punctuation, or unusual typesetting? Flash fiction is an ideal test run without the large commitment of writing in novel form.

Yes, you CAN do it. Many novelists seem wary of flash fiction. They claim there's no way they can tell a story in so few words. They have a hard time cutting themselves off at 100,000 words, let alone 1000. But they can. Anyone can write flash fiction. It may be difficult, it may be unusual, it may be loathsome, but they can do it. I think writers should experiment with multiple forms before they decide they're all novelist, all the time. Being able to create full stories in different forms is an important skill to have. And, in my opinion, brevity remains the soul of wit.

Don't fear the flash. Embrace it! What say you, readers? Do you like flash fiction? Hate it? Never tried it?


{ Scott Stillwell } at: September 14, 2011 at 6:07 AM said...

My first attempt at flash fiction was intended for the First Write Campaign Challenge, and I agree wholeheartedly--especially on points 3 and 4. I spent an hour on my 200 words, and about half of that was dedicated to eliminating the unnecessary. That was quite an eye-opener.

{ Old Kitty } at: September 14, 2011 at 6:43 AM said...

I love love writing flash fic!!! Best way to exercise my very lazy writerly muscles! Take care

{ Matthew MacNish } at: September 14, 2011 at 7:13 AM said...

I LOVE writing flash fiction. I don't often get ideas for it ... but every once in a while.

Have you ever submitted one of yours to Bryan? That's where I put almost all of mine up.

{ Sangu } at: September 14, 2011 at 7:20 AM said...

BUT I CAN'T! You say I can but I CAN'T!

Haha yeah I can't tell a story quickly to save my life. I love reading flash fiction, though, it's so much fun.

{ J } at: September 14, 2011 at 9:27 AM said...

I loved the challenge of writing flash fiction for the campaign. I hadn't tried it since my creative writing class in college, so it was nice to flex those muscles again. I might incorporate it back into my writing routine now... :D

{ Margo Lerwill } at: September 14, 2011 at 10:41 AM said...

I really think writers need to learn to write at all lengths. Novelists have to write queries, blurbs, synopses, pitches (of various lengths). It's handy for promotional opportunities to write short stories and flash fiction. The mindset that some of these are harder than others is a matter of people freaking/psyching themselves out. Every length I've learned to write has improved the others, and afterwards I've thought, wow, that's actually really easy.

{ kirstenlopresti } at: September 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM said...

I don't generally write flash fiction. The campaign challenge was my first and only attempt, but I do like to read it.

{ Ciara } at: September 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM said...

I've only written flash fiction for the Campaign. I love reading it, though. :)

{ Heather Kelly } at: September 16, 2011 at 4:51 AM said...

I agree with Margo above--writers need to know how to write all lengths. I'll go even further and say that I have learned a ton about writing, and myself, as a writer by writing outside of my comfort zone. Writing PBs, and screenplays, short stories and flash fiction, when my urge is to turn everything into a novel. The more afraid I am of something, the more I know I need to try it!

{ lindy } at: September 22, 2011 at 5:49 AM said...

After writing flash fiction for the campaign challenge I must admit that I loathe it! However, you make some compelling arguments here. Maybe I'll reconsider...maybe. :P

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