Writing Tips for Short Fiction Writers

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From Beginning to End - In a Flash!
by Pamela Heffernan

So what is flash fiction anyway?

Also known by other names like smokelong, postcard and micro-fiction, whatever you choose to call it, flash fiction is simply a short story of 300 - 1000 words (give or take a bit for some publications).

Easy, right?

Think again.

While writing flash fiction can be the most fun you may have writing a story, it takes a lot of work to get it right. Why? You still need all of the essential story components. You must have a beginning, middle and an end, just like any piece of fiction. You must have a central conflict. And you still need realistic, three-dimensional characters.

Now try squeezing all that, say, in 300 words. It still doesn't seem so bad, right? I mean it's gotta' be easier than writing a 5000 word college essay on your opinion of the causes and effects of pollution in Zimbabwe. (Okay, I promise it's way easier than that).

So, we're writing a story with a beginning, middle and an end in 300 words, but there's a couple of things we must also remember to factor in: setting, character, conflict and resolution.

Writing flash fiction is not the place to show off your vast vocabulary of twenty-five cent words or how much detail you can jam into one description. But it is the place to really work the writer inside you. Stretch your imagination and creativity to the limit.

Now's the best time to practice the old adage we all love so much, "Show, don't tell". Using strong action verbs, avoiding linking verbs (ie: became) and state-of-being verbs (ie: am, is, are, was, etc.) will help to both, keep your word count down and tighten up your story at the same time.

Think of flash fiction as a brief, inspired moment. It's a piece of what could become a bigger story. Your job as the writer is to make sure the reader doesn't actually feel that they're only getting "part" of the story.

Let your creative spirit soar and get lost in the fun and power of writing flash fiction!

Exercise: She had just smashed every single piggy bank in the house, but not for the money inside...
Write a 500 word story about what happened.

Market: Flashquake is a *paying* independent, quarterly, web-based publication that focuses on works of flash fiction, flash nonfiction (memoirs, essays, creative nonfiction, humor) and short poetry.

Copyright Pamela Heffernan. All Rights Reserved

Pamela Heffernan is a freelance writer from Canada. With a passion for all styles, she writes poetry, fiction, non-fiction and, of course, flash. Pamela is currently improving her skills by taking a writing course.
You can contact her at


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