My mum asked me recently what flash fiction actually is and how to write it. She used to like writing and often thought about writing a novel or novels. But it was always something to do, ‘one day…’ She said she didn’t think she could write in micro-fiction format and asked how I keep it short.
I said that from what I’ve read everyone who writes it has their own ideas about what it is and how it should be done.
Should it be written at speed in just one sitting?
Should it be a short story that you then cut to size to make it more ‘flash’y?
Should it be under 300 words? Under 500 words? Or is it still a flash at 1,000?
I guess I think a successful flash is one that manages to provide an intense experience in less than 750 words. I often go up to 1,000 words but I then ‘feel’ the difference and call it a short story.
I get an idea and have to write it down quickly while it’s still hot. When the action is pushing into my head that quickly I hope I will write them quickly and they can push back up off the page into someone else’s head at speed and deliver a similar flash of fiction. Tweaking can take no time or be done over the day but the main thrust seems to come in a burst that loses impact if I don’t use it immediately. Recently I have written a couple of stories that I suspected were a bit weak and didn’t throw the reader through a tunnel at speed and I felt as if I had failed. That happens every couple of months and I instinctively take a week or 2 off until another flash comes to me all by itself.
Usually it comes from listening to the radio – to people talking about real things. Weirdly, I find real life is wonderfully inspiring and can kick off all sorts of little trips in my head!