Flash fiction, also called micro fiction, micro narrative, postcard fiction, and short short story, is basically a story with a 300-700 word limit. It can be anything from a fable to a scene to a mood, and lends itself to be used as a creative writing inspiration or tool in the homeschool.
Flash fiction offers a strange mix of freedom and restraint. Because it is not as dependent on plot as a novel, it does not necessarily need the same three act structure as a full-length story. However, due to the word limit, particular care must be taken with each and every word used. Descriptions, action, and dialogue are condensed down to their absolute essentials to convey the elements and atmosphere on which the author wishes the reader to focus.
Students who wish to hone their writing skills may find flash fiction an enjoyable way to work on the ‘less is more’ approach to creative writing.
For instance, students can use a story they’ve written and reduce each sentence, word by word, until they are within the 700 word maximum. It is interesting to experience how the lack of verbiage can convey meaning as effectively as more explicative prose.
“She tromped through the woods, feeling the tickle of icy dew on her arms, and the warmth of the morning sun on her face.”
could lose eight words, and read
“She tromped through the woods, icy dew on her arms, the sun warm on her face.”
Depending on the tone or feeling one is trying to communicate, one could remove even more words, resulting in
“She was tickled with dew and warmed by sun.”
Or going for more a more artsy, poetic vibe
“Tromping through woods. Icy dew. Warm sun.”
Editing prose down to the barest essentials is not just about making your fiction short, but about each word contributing to story line and theme. Flash fiction is also a great writing tool for learning how to craft a great first line, use metaphor and symbolism, quickly establish characters with dialogue or quirks, and break the cliché habit.
Recommended further reading on flash fiction: