In a couple of weeks, I’ll be speaking at Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference on the topic of flash fiction. If you haven’t heard the term before, flash fiction is simply very short stories. Think anywhere between two (2) and five hundred (500) words.
Flash fiction isn’t new, and short stories have always had a following. In fact, many well-known authors of acclaimed novels got their start in writing short stories for magazines. My favorite example for this transition is Kurt Vonnegut, author of classics like Slaughterhouse-Five and Timequake. But as time has replaced the short stories in magazines by ads and articles on how to improve your sex life, readership of short stories has become almost niche.
Now take the population that reads this niche and shrink it considerably. The folks that are left are the ones writing flash fiction. Now shrink that number considerably and you’ll be left with the ones actually getting their flash fiction published.
So if flash fiction is a niche within a niche and there are so few people publishing it, why write it?
- You will learn the value of the right word. If your goal is to make a book as thick as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, you can afford to be wasteful with words, adding in superfluous languages, ten names for the same character, and description as wordy as a dictionary. But when you are limiting your number of words, you can’t afford such extravagances; you need the right word, not a bunch of the wrong ones that mean the same thing.
- You will learn to kill your darlings. By limiting your word count, you will have to make the tough decisions about what is necessary to the plot and what needs to go.
- You will get to know your story more intimately. If you are writing a novel-length story, consider writing one of your scenes as a story within itself. What are the important elements of the scene? What descriptions can you use to bring your characters into the right light? These things will become evident when you force yourself to abide by a truncated word count.
- Media consumers are becoming accustomed to briefness. Tweets that are 140 characters long. YouTube clips under 3 minutes long. Attention spans are shortening by the second. If we stay on this course, novel lengths will eventually shorten to flash fiction lengths anyway. Why not stay ahead of the curve?
By distilling your characters, plots, and settings, you are making each element richer. Flash fiction will help you become a better writer whether you use it as a writing exercise or as your main artistic form.
Please join me at Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference as we will look at some tips for writing flash fiction.