Five Approaches to Flash Fiction
and why you should try them all!
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
“I have an increasingly open sense of what a story is. Why not make room for more instead of being restrictive? There are so many kinds of stories! Any time you hear someone say, ‘That’s not a story,’ I think you should question the person, not the story.” ~Amy Hempel
NOTE: Apologies for this rerun. I’ve had such a large increase in new readers since this was originally published I thought I’d send it out again. An all NEW newsletter will land in your in-boxes on February 15th. Enjoy!
It finally feels like Spring here in Colorado and we seem to be rounding the corner on the pandemic (I hope!). As many of us begin to find time and headspace for writing again, I want to showcase some of the many approaches one may take to flash fiction writing. Seems whatever you set out to do in your storytelling, there’s a flash fiction form perfectly suited for it.
Say you want to: Quickly tell a story with emotional urgency. If not told now, it won’t get told at all. This writing must be all up in the reader’s face. Your character is here to say what they wish to say without interruption.
Try: What I have coined as the “breathless one paragraph flash.”
Read: Ashley Hutson’s “Something Else” from Split Lip Magazine
Regan Puckett’s “Buried” in Moonpark Review
T. L. Sherwood’s “The Shots Fired, the Shots Called” in Barren Magazine
Say you want to: Tell a story in short, sharp snapshots. Maybe you want to cover a stretch of time and/or geography. You want some white space on the page for your reader to pause and reflect and make their own connections. You want to write a series of microfictions around a particular theme.
Try: The segmented / fragmented / fractured / mosaic form.
Read: DeMisty D. Bellinger’s “Black Girl’s Magic” in Cotton Xenomorph
Kristin Bonilla’s “In Transit and Disrepair” in Jellyfish Review
Sara Hills’ “Lessons in Negative Space” in Fractured Lit
Say you want to: Come at a (perhaps) difficult or painful story by telling it slant. Or you want to disarm your reader with humor or playfulness. Or take a satirical approach on social commentary.
Try: The hermit crab or borrowed form flash.
Read: Kim Magowan’s “Madlib” in Okay Donkey
Neil Clark’s “Alfred Untold” in Jellyfish Review
K.B. Carle’s “Hello, My Name is Marley” in Craft Literary
Say you want to: Use the tools of poetry in your flash. You want to create a heartbeat, a rhythm, that serves to heighten the emotion and urgency of the story, to create a felt experience in your reader.
Try: Using repetition or echoes.
Read: Cheryl Pappas’s “Spent” in Had (uses anaphora, written in one of my Fast Flash workshops!)
Tommy Dean’s “Here” in New World Writing
My own story “Praise Rain” in Master’s Review (repeats a word at the end of each sentence)
Say you want to: Create a potent story in the briefest, most distilled way. Or you aspire to be the next Lydia Davis or Kim Chinquee.
Try: Microfiction. Different journals define micro in different ways, but aim for something of fewer than 300 words.
Read: Amy Hempel’s one-sentence story, “Housewife” in Micro Fiction, Jerome Stern (ed.)
Star Su’s “Sweet Teeth” in The Offing
Sarah Freligh’s “Lipstick” in 100 Word Story
Choose one of the five approaches above and quickly draft a flash fiction, using the photo below, if you wish, as inspiration or springboard.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Have fun with this month’s prompt! If you get a draft from it that you like, let me know on twitter. Feel free to share this prompt with others, if you’d like, either by forwarding the email or sharing the link on social media. I’d really appreciate it!
BEFORE YOU GO
Though substack would very much like me to (which is understandable), I have no plans for monetizing this newsletter. But if you have found my craft articles, writing prompts, and recommended readings useful, and you’d like to thank me in some small, tangible way, I will not object!
Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.
Love and light, friends. Happy May, happy writing!