Writing Flash Fiction – How I Do It

Yesterday, I posted a flash fiction story, “On With The Show“, which I wrote the day before. I write a lot of flash fiction, and I get a lot of hits on this site from people searching for how to do it, so it seems natural to give my method.

In the case of yesterday’s story, I was given three random words and challenged to write a story in no more than 500 words.

My words were barnstorm, natives, and saffron.

The first thing I did was look up the words. Saffron, I knew, was a spice and a color, and I’ve heard it used as a woman’s name (anybody know where?). Natives is easy. I’ve heard of “barnstorming pilots”, but I wanted to see where the term came from, and I was surprised to see that it originated in American theatrical troupes in the 1800s who put on action-packed shows in barns in rural areas.

So I had a general setting and a general cast and a general plot stew: A modern-day theatrical troupe going around putting on plays in rural areas.

The folks who live where the troupe performs are the natives. Saffron could be one of the cast. Barnstorming is what they do.

With the words taken care of, I could work on the story.

The three-act plot structure is: set-up, development, climax

So, my flash piece needed three points:

  1. setup – The troupe, the plays, how it works
  2. development – They flesh out the plays with local details
  3. climax – The result of that particularization

This, with a one-line denoument, and the story was done.

Any questions?

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a paragraph about a woman named Indigo. A woman named Carmine. A woman named Coral.



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 “Writing Flash Fiction – How I Do It

  1. Jane

    August 14, 2012 at 8:59am

    Hi. This seems like a very good description of how to write anything.
    You know how I am about writing anything short. Your very logical layout makes me think even I might be able to achieve a flash (other than a hot one).

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