An Introduction to Flash Fiction

by Alicia Audrey
published in Writing

My name is Alicia Audrey, and I am addicted to flash fiction. It is my hope that, if you are not already a flash fiction addict, you will join the club. I’ve always loved writing, and I spent a lot of time focusing on novel-length work. By the end of my second decade of writing, I needed saving. I wanted to keep writing, but the burnout was creeping in. I needed to find a way to develop ideas without committing too much. I needed to write stories without the pressure of a five-digit word count. When hanging out in the NaNoWriMo forums, I found my saving grace. Flash fiction.

What, exactly, is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is kind of mysterious. When I tell people I write it, their faces scrunch up and the pitch of their voices get pretty high. They have no idea what flash fiction is. At first, I was appalled. How could you not know what flash fiction is? Where do you live? Under a very unliterary rock? Oh, for shame!

But then I got a grip. I just learned about flash fiction a few years ago. Cut people a little slack, Alicia. Sheesh!

Flash fiction, simply put, is a very short story. Other names for it include short-short stories, microfiction, and postcard fiction. Flash fiction pieces are usually under 1,000 words, but they tell a complete story. It is simply a brief form of storytelling. In flash fiction, there are no words to waste. Every word must be essential to the story. This doesn’t mean you don’t have room for description. It doesn’t mean you have an excuse for poorly structured sentences either.

Flash fiction calls for a story with a beginning, middle, and end told in a limited number of words. The same rules that apply for short stories apply here. Vary the length of your sentences, don’t use adjectives and adverbs when you don’t have, keep the reader’s attention, and move the story forward with every single word you use. When writing flash fiction, words are dollar bills. Just because you have them doesn’t mean you should spend them all.

Who is flash fiction for?

Flash fiction is for the daring, the disciplined, the edgy, the poetic, the blogger, and the writer with a trick up his/her sleeve. It helps writers finetune their skills. Writing flash fiction is a great exercise in brevity, revealing character through dialogue, and eliminating unnecessary words and phrases. It makes writers stronger by giving them the ability to let go. It is also a great way to explore new story ideas that could work for longer pieces.

Lots of people enjoy reading flash fiction. It’s the perfect dose of literary entertainment for busy people. It’s just the right length for a lunch break. It’s the perfect complement to a hot beverage and sweet treat. It’s for the dreamer. The writer. The artist. The one with the wandering imagination. It leaves room for interpretation. It gives the reader space to create more, adding to the background of a character, or determining what the world looked like right after the last period.

But what about novels?

Novels are fantastic. I love reading them, and I love writing them. I fully intend to publish one. I workshopped a women’s fiction novel just last week at the Salt Cay Writers Retreat. It was an amazing experience, and it made me appreciate novels even more. The retreat ended with a student reading night. Most participants read from their work in progress – all novels. Me? I read a piece of flash fiction I plan to publish in a collection early next year.

What can we expect from this column?

I am beyond excited about this little corner of the internet. You can expect lots of raving about flash fiction and all of its merits over here. I’ll be sharing lots of tips for writing along the way. For the first few installments, I’ll be highlighting the great uses of flash fiction, including the ways it helps us to fine-tune our writing skills, self-edit, and promote our work. There will also be weekly assignments and contests to get you practicing and, hopefully, deeply in love with the art of flash.

This time, I’d like for you to share a 100 word story introducing yourself in the comments. Tell me your name and how you got it. If you’d like to post yours on your blog, post a link on Twitter using #FlashInTheCorner. I’ll choose three to go in the spotlight next month. Include your Twitter handle if you have one. I’m looking forward to reading your naming story. Make it a good one! 


Alicia WallaceAlicia Audrey is a writer, editor, blogger and social and political commentator living and working in Nassau, Bahamas. She enjoys writing flash fiction, and is currently working on a women’s fiction novel entitled The Whispering Willow. She prides herself on keeping the local post office open by sending far too many penpal letters and packages to friends and strangers alike on a weekly basis. Her favourite things include journals, tea, cupcakes, sarcasm, challenges, and autumn. She tweets her musings to everyone, but no one in particular, as @_AliciaAudrey.

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