How To Write Flash Fiction

First Method

  1. Write a novel.
  2. Locate the most important scene.
  3. Locate the most important moment of the scene.
  4. Delete everything else.

Second Method

  1. Just write that most important moment.

I recommend the second method, and I say this as someone who has written a truckload of flash fiction. Of course, a truckload of flash fiction is like a truckload of ear buds–mostly packaging. Still.

Here’s an example, which I am writing on the spur of the moment. Ear buds. Let’s start with ear buds. Makes me think about my daughter when she was a teen and my grandson when he was a teen. So let’s have a teen. Could do a parent or grandparent, but let’s have a teen. The teen is wearing ear buds. Why? Duh–to listen to music. Why? “Just because” isn’t a story, so let’s give him/her a reason. Okay, I’m going to make this a boy. He’s drowning out his environment. So let’s call the piece Soundtrack

I tuck the ear buds in as tight as they’ll go. The lead singer screams, the guitars wail. One day, I’ll have a growth spurt, and then it’ll be Dad. For now, it’s the singer, the guitars and my Mom.

So there you have it: a few lines with a story behind it and a story leading from it, encapsulated in a moment. Flash.

WRITING PROMPT: Go thou and do likewise.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “How To Write Flash Fiction

  1. Sara Deurell

    February 14, 2011 at 9:47am

    LOL. I like your methods for flash fiction. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good story, too!!

    For the record, I wasn’t drowning my environment so much as my own inner dialogue. And I’ve found, recently, that earbuds are excellent in cold weather when you don’t like earmuffs, because they keep the wind out of your poor little inner ear. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 14, 2011 at 3:48pm

      Ooo! earbuds as ear PROTECTORS! Using their power for good, rather than eeville.

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  2. Sharon Reece

    February 14, 2011 at 1:15pm

    Wow! So that’s what flash fiction is. I have a gift for condensing things but I’m not sure I could condense anything down that far!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 14, 2011 at 3:46pm

      Sure you could! Try it sometime, just for fun. You could surprise yourself. And, if you like the core flash enough, you can always expand it into a short story. Or a novel. Or a series. ~grin~

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  3. F.A.Hyatt

    August 14, 2011 at 3:19pm

    Some definitions of Flash extend the length to 500 words, depending on what on-line site you go by. Even at that, it is a trial to get all the elements: character definition, a sense of purpose, hook, line and sinker crammed into one. I like to do Short-Shorts, and extended Flash though, because you get just enough, if barely enough, room to express a full story. That’s good practice, and web-zines love them. You end up having to infer a good deal of the story to smash it together sometimes. Shorter flash is a bit like Haiku poesy, painting a scene, idea, or personality, but in prose. There are may sites that specialize in Postcard Flash though, and it can be fun to do.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 14, 2011 at 5:45pm

      Hi, Floyd! Some sites extend the length to 2000 words, which seems a bit long, to me. Didn’t keep me from selling to them, though. ~evil grin~

      I like your description of postcard flash as prose poesy. That’s how I think of it, sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Leif G.S. Notae

    July 27, 2012 at 6:57am

    I can’t say that I haven’t gone through that first step though. Sometimes it’s good to find pieces like this in old manuscripts that aren’t going to see the light of day anyway.

    As a flash fiction creator myself, I can attest that it takes a lot of practice to stop over describing things and getting down to the bone of the matter.

    Good article, sorry I found this a little late. Besides, it gives me a good idea for my manuscripts.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      July 27, 2012 at 7:29am

      Hi! Good to see you at any time. ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s the beauty of archived posts: They’re always there, warts and all.

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