One of the creative writing classes I took in college focused on flash fiction. I imagine it did so because it was something quick to write, easy to read, and didn’t require all that much time to critique. You could get a lot of writing done and pieces completed in the one-semester class allowing for each student to get something out of the revision and workshopping process. The downside: it’s hard to write a captivating story when there’s little to no background and you have less that 500 words to work with.
Personally, I think stories that are 500 words or less are barely stories. There isn’t enough there. You can’t fully develop anything in 500 words or less; for most novels that’s just the start of the introduction. It’s incredibly difficult to round out a story in that little frame which is why most of the stories developed by the class, myself included, sucked.
I found it hard to develop a plot, a character, and a conflict within the tiny frame given along with providing enough background or setting to make everything come together. My outlines for stories are longer than that. They do, however, force you to cut the fat, cut the meat, and really leave you little more than the bone, but they can be great for prompts, exercises, and practicing the craft. Some writers can develop a full story in that and my hat’s off to them but I need more to work with.
The upside to these flash fiction pieces was that you could write one per week, workshop it, and learn from each experience of doing so. The downside was longer plots and character development weren’t really there because there wasn’t enough time for it. You had to get in and get out.
I like writing short stories. You can write in any genre and they work with my sometimes short attention span. The classes I’ve taken have really opened my eyes to that and I’ll write short stories both for practicing specific skills as well as for creating something people simply enjoy reading.
A lot of flash fiction is too short to really be considered in the fiction category and more so falls under the banner of prose poetry. Think about it, a scene in fifty words is really a poem. 250 words is when these actually start to fall under fiction stories.
Flash fiction can be fun because you get your practice, you can develop a lot of story in a short frame, and you can write a series of stories with it with no limit on genre.
What are your thoughts on flash fiction? Have you ever written it? Do you think it’s too short to really be a full story or do you think the length is fine? Comment your thoughts below!