Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post on Flash Fiction

For today's blog post, I invited blogger Alissa Leonard to share with you her thoughts on what makes for good flash fiction. She has won several online flash-fiction contests, and is currently hard at work on revising a YA fantasy novel. You can check out her blog at Here's what she had to say:

Flash fiction is really fun to write. I’ve been writing it for a little over a year now; participating in contests I’ve found over the web, through twitter, and recommended to me by the amazing authors I’ve met online. (One of my friends has a list of those we know about here.) When you participate in flash fiction online, there is typically a prompt of some sort. The prompts vary from pictures to words, sentences, ideas, or themes.
So what makes good flash? A good story, like all fiction. The trick is to come up with a small story, at least that’s the trick for me. I tend to think big. My ideas can fill novels most of the time. Staying under the word limit (sometimes VERY small word limit) is difficult. All the things that make good fiction, make good flash fiction. You still need characters people can love or identify with, a setting that is clear and rich, conflict that is exciting and interesting, a voice that is compelling and intriguing, and a resolution that at once satisfies and surprises (Often in flash you get a twist ending). Can you fit all that into 500 words? 200? 100? 55? Yes.
The “in late, out early” idea for fiction writing is essential in flash. There is no time for set up and no time for falling action – just punch. My process is to write the story that comes to me and cut, cut, cut! Believe me, I usually have to cut a lot! J But it’s amazing how much you can cut from a story and change wording to be more precise and still have the same story! It’s helped my editing skills A LOT! I’m also getting better at knowing when a story is just too big for the word count, but that just takes practice.
Here is a piece I wrote for a 55 word challenge. Yes, 55 words. Exactly. It’s tough. It comes with a photo prompt. You can go here to see the photo of the chalk outline of a teddy bear with a chalk gun beside it. This piece, even though it’s small, has character, conflict, setting, voice, and resolution. Could I have written a longer piece? Yes. I did even. I had to work to get it down to 55 words. But I enjoyed the process and learned a lot. Plus, it’s invigorating to challenge yourself to do something you never thought possible.

Here is a piece I wrote for a 500 word contest where the prompt is the first sentence. I got it down to 498 words. I personally like taking the prompt and doing something unexpected with it. I think this one works because I was able to round it out. It starts with a character on fire, explores the reactions of those around him to the fire, and ends with his feelings about the fire. Within the story, I give you characters to love and hate, depth to the society they’re living in, conflict and intrigue, and I set it nicely in a school setting so the unfamiliar isn’t too shocking. I think the resolution works because the story is really about the fire that we started with. And it packs a punch, forcing you to ask questions about the society’s stance on fire – hopefully causing the reader to ask questions about their own society and evaluate their own positions on issues going on around them. 

Let me extend my special thanks again to Alissa Leonard for sharing her thoughts on what makes for good flash fiction. If you're interested in more on this topic, be sure and check out her blog at You can also follow her on Twitter by the username lissajean7. Thanks for reading and I will see you next time!

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