On Writing: How to Write Flash Fiction



I love flash fiction. It’s quick fun and exciting. It’s the right sequence of actions. It’s an exercise in brevity, of choosing the right words, of the hack and slash editorial style, or as Faulkner said, “killing one’s babies.”  

So much relationship exists between what’s being said that even in a story that lives in a few hundred words can be much bigger in the reader’s mind.

Flash fiction comes in many sizes. It can be the impossible Six-Word piece, or the newfangled 140-character twitterature.

I love to play with the  50 word dribble and the 100 word drabble, but my all time favorite, is the satisfying blast of a hard cap 750 words.

A good flash piece is a whirlwind of poetry, words, imagery and emotions.

Like any other story it will have a beginning, middle and end, but in flash the beginning is the middle and the end is rarely at the end.

You start a flash fiction piece with a tickle.

A character.

A motivation.

An image.

A story is nothing without exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, but I would argue that falling action and resolution are better left to the imagination in this type of work.

How about an example?

He dies

When he was alive he barely lived. He had a wife and children and a job. He walked the dog. He did chores. His life was mundane and his soul ached for more. Then he met her. A whirlwind of bad choices followed. The affair being only one. Probably the worst was the decision to rob the bank.

In this piece short doesn’t mean incomplete. It starts with some back ground and then rounds it all up with the resolution. You get a clear picture of what the author is attempting to portray.

There aren’t too many characters. Too many characters can muddle a piece. The wife and kids are mentioned in passing, but the protagonist and his mistress are the point, so most of the words focus on them.

In flash fiction the title is important. It acts like an allegro or an opening move in chess. It prepares the reader for what follows. Time and energy should be used in crafting the perfect title to make the piece flow with the rest of  the other sentences in the piece. It can work as a first line, or as the title of the piece above suggests, an ending.

Which brings up to the actual ending. In flash fiction the ending is like a punchline to a joke, the point. It can startle and shock, or delight, cause laughter or tears, but mainly it should make the reader want to go back to the beginning and work out all the parts and pieces to the story again.  

Some authorities on literature even suggest a flash piece hints at a larger work. As this one does. More could follow. There is definitely more relationship with the wife and kids that could explored, the whole work up to the bank robbery could be written, but in this piece the reader is asked to do a lot of the heavy lifting themselves, it relies on pre-stored imagery.

I like to think nothing ever truly ends, and since the big bang there are no true beginnings, there is only the next moment and the next movement from action to action.


Published by Bryan Aiello

Raised on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bryan served in the Army, graduated from the University of South Florida and now calls Brooklyn home. For more of his fiction and updates on his podcasts, follow him on Twitter: @bryaiello and Reddit: /u/voyage_of_roadkill.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: