When I started writing fiction four years ago, I knew that I was too impatient to ever write a full novel. Three books later, I found myself thinking the opposite. To scared to get wrapped up in a long story, I never sat down and wrote a short story just for fun.
But I was a poet.
I knew that short poems could flow out of me with ease, but I never saw the ability to write poetry as a reason why I would be able to write a short piece of fiction well. One day, I was feeling adventurous and sat down and wrote a flash fiction as an experiment. I had no concrete plans to send it anywhere. I just wanted to see if I could write a story under 1,000 words.
The half a dozen readers I sent my story to loved it, so I sent it to Splickety Havok magazine. They really liked it and published it in their April issue.
So, poetry experience was a bigger help than I thought.
Recently, I evaluated my poetry and the style in which I wrote my flash fiction, and I found some things that can help make your flash fiction better. My poetry and flash fiction are nothing alike, but given the short word count restrictions, these three similarities can enhance your story.
Have a beginning, middle, and end. A common mistake of writers trying to write flash fiction is forgetting about plot. It seems strange to forget about something so important, but even I have been guilty of falling in love with a small piece of fiction that wasn't a complete story on its own.
The struggle here is that as writers, we can fall in love with words just as easy as an avid reader falls in love with a story. When writing flash fiction, you have to completely switch gears and make sure you're still writing a story and not just a couple pages of masterfully written words, thoughts, or descriptions.
Even a 1,000 word story needs a starting place, a journey, and a resolution.
Never "just" describe the setting, the people, the props. Every sentence and word should have a function, no matter if you are writing a 75,000 word novel or a 1,000 word flash fiction. But, when you're writing flash fiction, your sentences should do more than one function.
"Dark clouds prohibited the sun from illuminating the crowds scramble away from the circus grounds to their cars. Heavy rain drops weighed their steps, splashing water higher and higher with the growing storm. Mud ran down Sarah's pants, as she stood, watching the chaos. A tear ran down her face."-- These sentences are fine, though I only took five minutes to write them. But, with a little reworking, we can shorten the word count, and maintain the action, emotion, and character.
"Rain drops and tears washed the clown paint from Sarah's face as she stood in the midst of the scrambling, circus spectators."-- I just turned four sentences into one and still managed to keep everything the old sentences had. Now one sentence contains, action, setting, character, and emotion. My style of writing, even in longer works, tends to be more like this anyway. I'm the kind of writer that writes it as it is and keeps elaborate, flowery words to a minimum, so keeping it short and sweet comes pretty easy.
What is the most important thing to communicate? How can you communicate that with clarity and conciseness.
Write something you are familiar with. "Map Maker's Hotel," my story in Havok is about a young man that gets involuntarily teleported to a vintage hotel where each residence holds a strange superpower. I have never written anything remotely similar to superpowers, a major aspect of the story. But, I have written another novel where a vintage hotel was a key place.
Using a place I knew made creating the tone and emotion of the place come naturally to me, and I could focus on the other aspects that I didn't know as well.
Write something you know. It could be a character archetype. It could be a setting. It could be a plot twist you've practiced before. When you're brainstorming, I encourage you to chose anything that is familiar to you to make writing the unfamiliar easier and untimely stronger.
Flash fiction can be hard.
I've written stories as few as 200 words long to stories 70,000 words long. There is an art to writing both, but most importantly writing great flash fiction takes just as much practice, attention, and love that a novel takes to write.
A smaller story doesn't mean it should have a smaller impact on the reader.~ Alyson