Saturday, March 16, 2019

Short and Snappy: How to Write a Gripping Flash Fiction Story

Flash fiction. Even if it isn't your go-to project and you'd much rather crank out 100,000-word behemoths, writing short fiction will strengthen you as a storyteller. Although I'm definitely still a novel-writer first and foremost, I've cultivated a deep appreciation for flash fiction over the past several months and have already learned important things about how to write it! So today, I'm going to share three tips for writing a gripping flash fiction story.

1) Make sure your story has a strong beginning, middle, and end.
This is not to say that a flash fic with a strong beginning and middle but a weaker ending (as in, not much closure) won't be a good story, but it's a brute fact that the stronger every part of your story is, the stronger and more impactful your story will be.

I feel like endings that provide sufficient closure are harder to write when it comes to flash fiction. A fully-rounded story of such short length is a huge challenge. But the more flash fiction I read (shout-out to Havok Publishing!), the more I realize that the stories with the most closure, the ones with a real, satisfactory conclusion, are the most enjoyable. A story with little to no closure often leaves readers feeling cheated, especially if that story had a strong beginning and middle.

Believe me, I fall victim to the struggle. It's hard! But how does one get better? Research story structure and then PRACTICE. Simply, don't stop writing flash fiction. Keep at it, my friends, and pretty soon you'll have a score of short stories with strong endings under your belt.

(Note: The brevity of flash fiction makes a couple hanging strings almost inevitable. But don't mistake "a couple hanging strings" with an unsatisfactory conclusion.)

2) Keep it simple. I'm mainly addressing fantasy and science fiction here, which often involve complex systems. One thing I've discovered is that info-dumps have no place in flash fiction whatsoever - and most flash fic writers realize this, but here's the problem that arises: The story turns out confusing and hard to follow because it acts like you can grasp a complicated set of concepts or a complex world with nothing but a few hints. The truth is, you can't shove a Tolkien-esque fantasy setting into 1k words. Either stick to what's familiar within your chosen genre or drastically simplify your original concepts. And by that I mean actually simplify them, not simplify your explanation of them.

If your fantasy/sci-fi system is too complicated to be simplified, don't try to fit it into the tight flash fic model at all. Save it for a longer story, where you'll be able to give it the fleshing-out it needs. Simple and easy to follow will grip readers more, especially in short fiction.

3) Have your main character change in some way by the end. This is another challenge for flash fiction because you're trying to develop a realistic transformation in a small amount of words, but it's a well-known writing lesson I believe should be emphasized for flash fiction. Characters make or break a story, and excellent character development is a crucial aspect of truly gripping flash fiction. And it doesn't have to be a big, glaring life transformation. It can be subtle. All I ask is that you put your character(s) through something that CHANGES them.


As you can see, although flash fiction is a challenging story format, it provides valuable practice with story structure and character development. It's a great exercise for novel-writers seeking to improve their niche, and it brings immense satisfaction to write and polish a piece in as little as a week. Of course, you'd ideally want to spend more time on it than that, to produce the highest-quality story, but you know what I mean. It's only 1,000 words!

And yet, it's not just any ol' "1,000 words." An epic 1,000-word story can be just as gripping and enthralling as an epic 100,000-word novel. So go forth and give flash fiction a try!

The Lord's Truly,
Comment below whether you've had experience writing flash fiction and what you've learned from it. Also, I know there are plenty more tips for writing in this story format, so feel free to add some of those other tips below!


  1. *cough* how did you know I was just thinking about writing flash fiction the other day? xD

    But seriously, I’m SO BAD at writing flash fiction, and this post helped me so much. Thank you!

    1. My secret's out - I'm a mind-reader. Mwahaha!

      In all seriousness, though, I'm so glad you found this helpful! :D

  2. This post is super helpful!!

    I tried to write some flash fiction for a contest a few months back, and it was just . . . blegh. XD

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Kara!

      Yeah, sometimes my flash fictions come out okay and sometimes they don't... XD

  3. This post is awesome! I've been practicing a lot of flash writing lately for Havok, so that's been super fun ;) these tips are just what I needed!

    1. Thanks, Faith! And that's so cool!! Flash fiction IS a lot of fun. :D I'm so glad you found this post helpful. <3

  4. Nice! I love reading ff, but can't quite get the hang of WRITING it...

  5. I love flash fiction and short stories .. some of my favorite stuff to write. And your tips here are amazing. Havok is a great place for reading and learning more about flash fiction, isn't it?