Tuesday, February 8, 2011


By Rhonda Browning White

No, I’m not talking about skirt length, but about a form of fiction that’s growing in popularity. The short-short, a.k.a., sudden fiction or flash fiction. What exactly is flash fiction, and why should you consider writing in this form?

Flash fiction varies in length from 250 to 1500 words and can be written in any genre. Instead of spending days or weeks plotting and fitting together the chapters of a novel or book, you can easily pound out a work of flash fiction in a matter of minutes. Another bonus of writing sudden fiction is that it can loosen so-called writer’s block (though I don’t believe in that condition—but that’s another article). It will cause your mind to shift gears and can often be a form of welcome relief to keep you writing while you’re taking a mental break from a longer piece of work.

Is it easy, then? Not always. The strict limits of word count will challenge you to create tighter, sharper prose. The goal of sudden fiction is to provide the reader with a flash of insight or illumination that may provoke deeper or longer thought. Even a super-short piece of fiction should have a climax and resolution to feel satisfying to the reader.

So what are some tips for creating exciting sudden fiction? Here are the basics:

  • Limit the number of characters. One or two are usually enough.
  • Use only one scene or setting. Think of a snippet of life as viewed under a microscope.
  • Include vital information only. Detailed back-story has no place in flash fiction.
  • Use sparse dialogue. Save lengthy conversations for a regular short story or novel.

It’s good to know, too, that there’s a growing market for flash fiction, so it’s a valid way for beginning and experienced writers alike to build a resume of bylines and publications. Collegiate and literary magazines like Glimmer Train Press often publish shorter fiction pieces, as do online literary journals. Romance magazines like True Story and True Romance publish dozens of short-short pieces each month. Weekly supermarket magazines like Woman’s World pay well for sudden fiction. Be on the lookout, too, for anthologies like Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories that specialize in flash fiction.

Short-short fiction will likely continue to grow in popularity, thanks to our busy and hectic microwave lifestyles. Most pieces can be read in less than a minute, but enjoyed for much, much longer. Remember, the best things often come in small packages, so try your hand at flash fiction today!

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