Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Flash Fiction Fun! (Laurie)

Back in 2017, I wrote a post about my first experiences writing short stories. I'd been pleasantly surprised that after writing two full-length novels, I'd managed to write a story in under 10,000 words! At the time, I never dreamed I'd be capable of writing anything shorter, and flash fiction (*very* short stories that are usually 1,000 words or less) didn't appeal to me since it seemed way too quick - over before I had a chance to feel engaged or connected to the characters.

Fast-forward two and a half years, and my first flash fiction piece, "Rubbed the Wrong Way," was published in an anthology titled Stories That Sing that just released on April 30th (isn't the cover gorgeous??). The same publisher, GoHavok.com, will be posting my second flash fiction piece, "Dragonbreath," on their website tomorrow (Wednesday, May 6th)! Somewhere along the way, it seems I've come around to being a fan of reading and even writing flash fiction :)

The blessing and curse of flash fiction is that it's so short. Really good flash fiction is so much fun to read because you get a great story in a matter of minutes. On the downside, it can feel incomplete - one scene where the rest of the story is missing, an action sequence without enough context to appreciate what's going on, or an overview instead of an engaging plot.

So that's where the trick of writing flash fiction comes into play. How do you write something that short without disappointing readers' expectations? For me, I've found the key lies in the story planning. For full-length novels, I spend a minimal amount of time plotting and figure out most of the details as I write. But for flash fiction, I put a much greater percentage of time into brainstorming, because if I can't nail down a story that will work in such a small word count, I'll never get anywhere in the writing phase.

When I was brainstorming "Dragonbreath" (which falls in Havok's Super Duper theme, featuring stories involving superpowers), I thought it would be fun to write about a guy who can breathe fire, and all the complications such an ability would add to his day-to-day life. But even the shortest of stories needs to be leading somewhere, and I struggled to turn my list of humorous anecdotes into a coherent plot. As I tried to figure out a way his power could be useful in resolving a conflict, the story threatened to expand way beyond the word count limitation. Any kind of epic battle or rescue could never be adequately portrayed in a few short pages. Eventually, I dreamed up a female character with her own troublesome superpower and a way their talents could interact, and it all clicked into place! Go figure my superpower story would take a turn towards romance... :)

What I love about writing flash fiction is the challenge. When you're limited to 1,000 words, there's no space for overwriting or weasel words, which forces a honing of writing and editing skills that transfers well to longer works. And as an editor once pointed out to me, readers shouldn't feel the tension of the word count. A really well-written piece of flash fiction should tell an engaging, satisfying story without the reader needing to make excuses for the author due to the length restriction. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but it's fun to try! Also, I've found flash fiction to be a great way to keep writing and creating during times when I find it hard to focus on longer projects (like right now, in the midst of social distancing, coronavirus scares, and having my husband and kiddos always at home!).

If you're interested in flash fiction as a writer and / or reader, I'll put in one more quick plug for Havok! New flash fiction pieces are posted on GoHavok.com every weekday and some Saturdays, all following a certain theme but in a variety of genres. Each story is always free to read on the day it's posted (like mine will be tomorrow), or you can become a member and access their entire database of stories. They've been a pleasure to work with, and I'd highly suggest stopping by whenever you're looking for a quick read!

Any fellow flash fiction writers out there? Do you enjoy reading shorter fiction, or do you prefer to stick to full-length books?

See you next time!


  1. Congrats! I've wanted to write flash fiction have not been able to get a story short enough.

    1. Thank you!! And hopefully the right story will come along one of these days, it's definitely tough to come up with an idea that works with such a short length!


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