For a while now I have been writing flash fiction. FF is very short fiction, though the length may vary. It ranges from six word stories, to the 100 word drabble, to shorts of 250 or 500 words, all the way up to 1000 words. Loosely it’s all flash fiction.
Short stories start at 1000 or 1500 and go up to 10,000 or so. Beyond that it’s a novella and after 40,000 it’s a novel.
It’s the short length of a flash which makes it both easy and difficult.
The easy part is the first draft, a quick scribble which takes very little time. Rewriting it, polishing it, making it a good story – that is the difficult part.
Anything does not go. A short description or an anecdote is not flash fiction. There has to be a story, progression, conflict and some kind of resolution. Usually two characters which can be stretched to three. More than that would overload the tiny form.
It’s not easy to write, a mistake those who have not tried the form often make. Poetry is short too and no one thinks it easy. Neither is flash. Writing a good flash has a steep learning curve and takes a long time – years of work, like everything else in writing.
The length I like is 1000 words maximum. It’s roomy enough for a little character development, a little – very little- backstory – and a surprise or a twist to bring it to a satisfying ending.
Ironically the shortness of the form gives it the largest scope to experiment and innovate. Because it is so short you can try all genres and various styles. It is refreshing to try things you can never do in the novel or short story you are working on.
The real delight is the experimentation. You never quite know what will show up on the page and often you are very pleasantly surprised. Because it’s so short you can write hundreds of stories. Most will be rubbish but there will some gems in the debris which you can rescue and polish later.
Every story helps. I suggest to those who are starting out – write, write and write. After your first five hundred, or your first thousand – something will change. You will discover you have grown and so have your stories. Just like riding a bicycle. One day it’s effortless, but that day comes only after many hours spent despairing, thinking you will never get it, picking yourself up, once again, from the dust.