Flash Fiction

How many words do you need to tell a story? Flash Fiction sets the bar higher (or lower in the case of word count) than any other type of story.

There are so many categories of stories that have nothing to do with genre: flash fiction, short story, novelette, novella, novel, and I’m sure I don’t have them all. Vignettes and povels, while related, give me the impression of having their own categories.

Flash Fiction is a favorite of mine, partly because the challenge of the word count is what makes or breaks the piece. It may be shorter than any other story you’ve encountered, but it still requires a beginning, middle and end. It’s a great exercise in how to make every single word count.

The downside is sometimes words have to count for too much. Such short pieces rely heavily on the reader to fill in some of the blanks. While I like it, flash fiction can get the reader to author to forget what’s needed in longer stories to make them shine. Balance is always needed.

The shortest story I’ve ever heard of? Ernest Hemingway’s 6 word ditty: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I’m no Hemingway (I think everyone knew that) and I’ve never written anything nearly that short. My shortest to date is 55 words, and an example is below.

Dirty Little Secret

“I have a friend you’d adore, Mara.”

“Maybe.”

“What’s wrong with one date?”

Mara remembered a tall man with blue eyes. Staring across the table at his wife’s ring, she smiled. She preferred her friends to think her picky than to know she loved someone she couldn’t have. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”

If you’re curious about more examples of 55 word stories, check out this magazine.

The cutoff for flash fiction is about 1000 words, which leaves a lot of room between the extremes. Happy Writing.

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3 Comments

  1. Jamie said,

    12 February 2009 at 09:43

    Most of my sales have been in flash. I just subbed one out with 187 words and have sold 55 worders. I am pretty excited that two of my flash pieces will be out in the next two months.

  2. Crystalee said,

    12 February 2009 at 14:00

    Another flash fiction journal (a former prof of mine runs this one) is Brevity http://www.creativenonfiction.org/brevity/

  3. Dawn Embers said,

    12 February 2009 at 20:29

    55 words is my shortest attempt at flash fiction. I submitted it before you were running the contest on WDC though.

    Flash fiction is fun though I need to actually send stuff out or I’ll never get published.


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