Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? Part X
The Secrets of Writing Flash Fiction
Flash fiction is a story form that is really short, usually from 100 to 1000 words. It is not a vignette, it is not a commentary on an event, it is a full story with a plot and conclusion. If you attempt writing some flash fiction you will find it is often harder to write good short fiction than longer works.
How I approach flash fiction writing is by breaking it into the three act story format, but I title them:
In a flash fiction piece it is important to start your story in the conflict, or very close to it. You usually don’t want to rely on back-story for flash fiction because it will eat up your word count. You might need a few sentences but keep it minimal. You’ll want to make your story be told in one scene, one location, and in one piece.
1st act – character introduction, initial conflict, dilemma
2nd act – the action the character takes to resolve the conflict or dilemma
3rd act – The results of the main character’s action to solve the conflict and the change in the situation.
Theoretically you can do this in three paragraphs.
It is important to have a great first sentence, a grabber that will get people to read your story. It should do one (or more) of three things:
– It should make the reader ask themselves a question that needs to be answered.
– It should put them in a situation that they are curious about.
– It should make them feel instant camaraderie or empathy for your main character.
The climax of the story should be at the end of the second act when the MC has taken action to solve the dilemma and the conflict is escalated to its peak. The third act should be short and bring everything back to normal, to a new normal, or to a realization of what the future of the MC will be.
Naturally, these are just guidelines and exceptions to the format always exist.
Here are a couple of opening sentences, grabbers, that I’ve used from some of my most frequently read stories on the internet:
The moment old lady Ambrose bent over to look in my basement window, I hit her in the back of the head with a hammer…
from my story Upstanding Citizen on the Carnage Conservatory
I love the dead. Their cooling flesh, pale blue tone, and relaxed muscles produce an exquisite experience within my fingers…
from my story Aberration on microhorror.com
Extremely short fiction can have an implied aspect to it. Much of the story can take place in your head after the story is read. Following are some examples.
The shortest stories ever written:
For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.
This two sentence piece is often attributed to Hemingway.
James woke one night in his dark bedroom with the notion that someone was in the room with him. When he reached for his glasses on the nightstand, they were placed in his hand.
“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”
― Edgar Allan Poe
“A short story is a different thing all together – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.” ― Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.”
– Larry Niven