Today I want to talk about Flash Fiction.
Why flash fiction? Well, take a look at all the writing sites and competitions on-line. The world is reading flash. In this busy life, many people only have time for short stuff and the traditional publisher has yet to catch on. We are told by publisher, no one buys flash fiction or short story collections, which I think is blatantly untrue. Just check out Amazon if you don’t believe me. They just can’t think outside the box.
Flash fiction has one main advantage over the long-established novel. It’s a fast read when time is at a premium and today’s readers understand the value of a satisfying read they don’t have to put down between never-ending tasks.
So, what constitutes a good flash story then? Like all stories flash has a beginning, middle and an end. Most flash stories are between 500 & 1000 words long, while that is not set in stone, for competition purposes; there is usually an upper word limit. I also think getting from the beginning to the end without giving the plot away until the last sentence is paramount in a good piece of flash.
The first lesson in writing good flash is to make sure you cut all unnecessary words from every sentence you write. If the sentence is still understandable you’ve probably done a good job. Next you need to read the story through and ask yourself does every sentence move the story forward; most writers already do this when editing a novel. However, it needs to be tougher with flash.
For instance if I write: The cat sat in the corner of the room on the mat. It’s an ok sentence, but for flash we need to think about word count; so I cut the extra words: The cat sat on the mat. Ok, I know it’s not a very good example but if your reader doesn’t need to know where the cat sat to move the story forward; why bother telling them, this is flash and you mustn’t ramble.
I read so many short stories where the writer pads the story with unnecessary words I sometimes give up reading the darn thing. Is it ok to pad out a novel, I don’t think so because I always skip over the long rambling bits to get to what’s going to happen next. A good novel should keep you reading not bore you with long unnecessary descriptions if it doesn’t move the story forward. Have you read ‘War & Peace’ lately?
Another habit some writers have is to tell us how the character is feeling then go on to reinforce it with showing us. Why tell us when they’re showing us, do they think we won’t get it unless they spell it out twice.
Take this sentence for example: Jane was so angry she slammed the door and kicked the cat. The writer doesn’t need to tell us Jane is angry they show us by her actions: Jane slammed the door and kicked the cat. Ok another lame example but I’m sure you guys get my meaning.
The next time you write a chapter of your blockbuster novel, remember, think flash it might help and it sure can’t hurt.
I’d love to hear what others think on this topic, feel free to shoot me down if you don’t agree.