Have you ever written flash fiction? Never heard of it?
Okay, let me start again, have you ever written a short story? Have you ever told someone a short story?
I’m sure you have.
Flash Fiction is a short story with a limit on words. The rules will be different depending on who you ask, but for Girl and a Book, I like to cap the stories at 1,000 words, mostly because I don’t want the blog post to be too lengthy.
Flash, because it’s a quick read. Fiction, because it’s not real.
The short story needs to be entirely make-believe. Sure, it can be inspired by true events, but as a whole, it needs to be fictional.
A Lesson in Short Story Writing
A long time ago, I entered into a short story contest. There was a fee to enter, so I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to write, and to make it worth the fee.
I was so proud of myself for doing it. Writing wasn’t (and probably still isn’t) my strong suit.
Anyway, the short version of the story (pun intended) is that I didn’t win. I didn’t even place in the top 5. The only feedback I received from the judges was “show, don’t tell.”
Believe me; I get it. I understood what they meant. In writing, you have to show the details by using the five senses. Don’t just walk into the room and sit on a chair. Walk into the room and tell me what you smell, what tastes you’re reminded of by smelling said thing, what does it feel like as you cross the room, etc.
This is the way of writing. This is what you’re supposed to do when you write a story of any length.
Except it’s bogus advice.
Sure, if you’re writing a novel, or anything over 20,000 words, be verbose. Have at it. Describe all the things to your heart’s content.
But when you’ve got a small cap on your word count, get to the point.
I didn’t hope to win that contest so many years ago. But I sat in the room and listened to other aspiring writers tell their tales.
And I’m sure I dozed off.
Artistic, sure. Poetic, maybe.
Nothing happened in these stories at all.
It was the written equivalent of watching paint dry.
Clearly, I didn’t understand the point of a short story, and maybe I still don’t.
The Difference with Flash Fiction
When I say, “I want to hear a short story” or “write me some flash”, there are very few rules that I want you to follow.
I have a word count, which I’m not strict about; it’s more of a guideline.
I have themes and bonus words, which again, just guidelines for people who might need a starting point.
Really, there are only three rules:
- It must be flash (as in short enough that people won’t get bored scrolling through the post)
- It must be fiction (I don’t need any lawsuits, so don’t write the names of people you know)
- It must be decent enough that you’d let your mother read (no profanity)
That’s all there is to it.
If you want to *show* me a story – great.
If you want to *tell* me a story – also great.
I love to read – so if you’re a writer, give me what’ya got!
Who says “show me a story” anyway? Pfft…