ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Understanding Flash Fiction

Updated on April 9, 2017
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

The Multifaceted FLASH of Light

A flash of light can be separated into the various colors of the light spectrum.  in the same way, Flash fiction is multifaceted and can be viewed in the various genres in which authors write their stories.
A flash of light can be separated into the various colors of the light spectrum. in the same way, Flash fiction is multifaceted and can be viewed in the various genres in which authors write their stories. | Source

What Purpose do Very Short Stories Fulfill

As societies around the globe advance, as economies strengthen, as people enter or move farther along in the work force, individuals find that they have less and less time to do the things they really enjoy.

When it comes to reading, many people feel they don't have time for the latest twelve hundred page fiction by the hottest selling author at the time. They miss that experience of consuming a well crafted, satisfying story, but simply can't fit reading into an already packed schedule.

This is the social dilemma which flash fiction is perfectly designed to solve. In the time it takes to boil water for their morning coffee, people can read a well written story that has a definite beginning, strong plot and characters, crisis, creative resolution and end.

Flash fiction has found its niche in the world, but there are still many who have only a vague understanding of this fascinating literary form.

Unique Elements of Flash Fiction

Two important qualities of any flash fiction story are brevity and word choice.

Flash fiction stories should have many of the same elements as longer forms of fiction. Brevity is crucial to flash fiction, but all of the elements of a story must be contained in each flash fiction story. All fiction, long or short, should have the following content:

  • Plot (with strong beginning and ending).
  • Character.
  • Conflict (with resolution).
  • Theme.
  • Setting.

To achieve this unique brevity, a writer of flash fiction must pay close attention to word choice. Adverbs are often the first to disappear. Adjectives should be carefully chosen and used sparingly. The heart of flash fiction is comprised of nouns and action verbs. Side stories are edited out and the back story is kept to a minimum and sprinkled in throughout the story.

There is no absolute standard which dictates the length of a flash fiction story. Flash fiction can be as short as a few words if they communicate all the elements of a story. Some people involved in the flash fiction industry include stories as long as one thousand or even three thousand words. At some point though, flash fiction begins to cross into the territory of short story or novelette.

The History of Flash Fiction

The term "flash fiction" was first used in 1992 by James Thomas, editor of the volume Flash Fiction: Seventy-Two Very Short Stories. But the branch of fiction which we now know as flash fiction has been around for a long time. Aesop's Fables were short stories and, if written today, might be called flash fiction. Hemingway wrote 18 stories which appeared in the book In Our Time. These stories took up a mere 32 pages of the book.


Genre or Literary Form?

Many refer to flash fiction as a genre of fiction. In reality, flash fiction is a form or category of fiction which can encompass all genres. Examples of literary forms are fiction, non fiction, essays and poetry. Flash fiction could, and should, be added to this list.

Genre refers to types of writing within a particular literary form. Science fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery are genres which fall within the literary form of fiction and can also be found within the form of flash fiction.

Great Writers of Short Stories

Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Ernest Hemingway, 1954 Public Domain
Ernest Hemingway, 1954 Public Domain | Source

Flash Fiction vs Vignette

One definition of vignette is that it is a brief evocative description, account, or episode. This is not the definition of a story and does not describe flash fiction. One of the pitfalls of writing flash fiction is that the author writes an anecdote or a sketch but not a complete story. A vignette might describe a beautiful scene where two lovers sit and watch a sunset. The account may describe the feelings of the two and the colors of the setting sun, but no real story is told. A vignette is only a small scene in the larger landscape of a complete story. Flash fiction tells the whole story in as few words as possible.

Famous Authors Who Have Written Flash Fiction Style Stories

Here are some titles of short fiction by some of history's greatest authors. While many of the short stories by these authors are longer than most flash fiction, these writers led the way in writing complete, compelling stories in very few words.

  • Kurt Vonnegut-Bagombo Snuff Box (collection)
  • Ernest Hemingway- In Our Time (collection)
  • Ray Bradbury-The Cat's Pajamas (collection)
  • Anton Chekov-Best Short Stories of the Modern Age (collection)
  • Franz Kafka-The Complete Stories (collection)
  • Arthur C. Clarke-Reach for Tomorrow (collection)

Why Read Flash Fiction?

"Why should I read a flash fiction story of only a few hundred words when I can read a one thousand page work of fiction and get so much more?" More what? More words for sure. Of course there are many great works of long fiction, but does an abundance of words guarantee a better story? One might also ask, why should I eat a ribeye steak when I can consume a whole cow? Well, sometimes too much is, well, just too much.

Flash fiction is not easy to write. The author spends a great deal of time editing, condensing, looking for the most concise way to communicate a thought. In the end, with no waste of words, the reader is rewarded with a story that "stands up, speaks up, shuts up and sits down."


Where do I Find Good Flash Fiction

Some authors have already been mentioned in this article. Here are a few names of prominent flash fiction authors who are writing at the present time.

  • Leanne Radojkovich
  • Michelle Elvy
  • Anthony Varallo
  • Calum Kerr
  • Thomas Pitre
  • Vic Errington
  • Amelia Gray
  • Barry Yourgrau
  • Kathy Fish
  • Joshua Scribner
  • Ava Delaney



Flash Fiction World, Collection

Flash Fiction on HubPages

There are many writers here on HubPages who are producing some high quality stories. I encourage everyone to seek out these authors and read their works. Reward them by sharing their stories on Facebook, twitter, GooglePlus and elsewhere.

Here are a few writers who have published stories on HubPages.

  • JayeWisdom
  • Jambo87
  • Smarticus
  • paradigmsearch
  • QueenBex

There are many more which you can find by searching the site for flash fiction.

A Note About Flash Fiction and HubPages

[Author's note: As a result of this hub, HubPages has developed a topic specifically for Flash Fiction stories. Thank you Christy Kirwan and HubPages.]

Visit the Flash Fiction Topic Page.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Gyanendra Mocktan profile image

      gyanendra mocktan 9 days ago

      Thank you very much for your tips. I follow them.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 3 months ago from Colorado

      Thank you for the helpful tips as I branch out into writing flash fiction.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 12 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great advice. I should have a go at it but as you say. I have so little time to read my books these days. I love to read a good 1000 pages book in between work breaks, but never tried reading very short stories.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 17 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      ChitrangadaSharan, Thank you for your comment on the article and for pinning it. Flash Fiction is a great format for fiction, and I am glad to see it has a solid group of writers here in HP.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice description to explain the difference between short stories and flash fiction. Your hub is very helpful and informative.

      I have enjoyed various wonderful flash fiction stories by some talented hubbers on Hubpages. And I have also contributed some flash fiction hubs in the various 'Hub challenges' from time to time. I like the idea of Flash fiction especially in the present day scenario when people don't have a lot of time to spend on a longer story.

      Thank you for sharing this! Pinning it too.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      HattieMattieMae, thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

    • HattieMattieMae profile image

      HattieMattieMae 22 months ago from Limburg, Netherlands

      Nice history and explanation.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks, can8510! Before reading this hub of yours I was not sure what the difference was between flash fiction and short stories.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Availiasvision, Flash Fiction is fun to read and to write. But to write it correctly takes some practice. I had a great mentor. I've removed most of my stories from HP so I could feature them on my blog. I'll give that link here. Also, go to the search box at the top of the HP page and type in flash fiction. You will be rewarded with some great stories by lots of people here who write FF. Good luck.

      http://camflashfiction.blogspot.com

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      I've always felt that traditional fiction has too much fluff. As a minimalist I value my time, as well as my readers' time. I studied creative writing and took several courses on the short story, however, this was not a topic spoken of. Maybe I've found my calling. I'll have to try my hand at it.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Paradise7, thanks for reading. You are right when you say fiction doesn't do well on HP. I believe fiction does not get picked up easily by the search engines. But flash fiction does fit better than multi part short stories. I've published both here. One thing i've been doing lately is to write historical ff. Then I throw in a twist by creating an alternate ending for the historical person or event. This way the search engines pick up the story much more easily. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York

      Very interesting. I'll have to look into this. One thing I noticed on hub pages is that fiction generally speaking doesn't do very well. I thought that was because it was hard to develop a story enough in the optimum space for hubpage readers. I could be wrong!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jo thanks for coming back to this hub and for sharing it too. That is very helpful for promoting a hub.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Linda, I'm glad you found this hub helpful. I look forward to reading ff by you.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

      I wanted to come back and read this again. I have bookmarked this. And I kept my promise to tweet. I voted Up +++ and shared on Facebook too. Thanks again for the tips! :-)

      Wishing you the very best..Shalom

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks for the information Cam. I'll go check out your question on HubPages. I agree that writers looking at each other's stories is a very helpful tool.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Linda, I am trying to pull together a group of flash fiction writers who will critique one another's work prior to publishing, either on HP or some other site. I have a question up on HP about that. If you'd like to think about being involved you could let me know at some point. I have been part of a group like that before and it is very valuable.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 3 years ago from Minnesota

      I can see there was a reason we just met on HubPages. I have always loved writing short stories that fit the 'flash fiction' criteria. I love writing flash fiction, reading flash fiction and if I'm correct, I use to love the scary short t.v. shows that Ray Bradbury use to have. I am very interested in getting some of my work on this new site. I got a lot out of this informative hub. Much appreciated!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jo, Thank you so much for taking the time to read this hub and comment. It is very nice meeting you. As you learn and experiment with flash fiction, you may find that it is helpful to have others to share some of your work with. I would like to see that happen here, but am not sure how to even proceed. There is a site at www.flashfictionworld.com which has a forum. There are just a few active participants, and they have helped me a great deal. Drop in there sometime and look around, especially in the forums. There is a place to introduce yourself to the others. Good luck with flash fiction. It is a wonderful form to write in.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

      Hello,

      It is nice to finally meet you. I was reading in the forums for the newest challenge. I clicked on this, and I am glad I did.

      This sounds like something, I am going to give a try.

      I am burned out from writing two novels at once.

      I find writing novels with over 200 pages frustrating sometimes. Thank you for the tips.

      Shared, Up +++ and promise to tweet later! :-)

      Shalom

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Christy, that is awesome. Thank you for reading my hub and for responding so quickly and positively. This will raise the visibility of Flash Fiction on HubPages. Great work Christy.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Great Hub, cam8510! I noticed your flash fiction Topic suggestion at the bottom, and I think it's a great idea. In fact, I'm going to create a Flash Fiction Topic this week. Look for it under Books, Literature, and Writing - Commercial and Creative Writing - Creative Writing - Flash Fiction in the next two or three days. :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Hi Deb, I'm glad you enjoy ff and that you liked the article as well. I would like to see more flash fiction being written and read hear on HP. But it is tempting to whip out a story and think it is ready for public consumption when it is not. I've been guilty of that. I'd like to see the quality of the ff writing go up as well. Thanks for stopping by Deb.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nice description on the difference types of stories, and I do agree, there should be something listed for flash fiction. I have enjoyed various flash fiction stories by numerous folks on hubpages. To me, a little bit is just enough when I don't have a lot of time to spend on a longer story.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      I have published a couple of ff stories recently that got no feedback at all. I ended up deleting them as there seemed to be no interest whatsoever. Those stories obviously were not ready for prime time. I have worked on them and received help from members of the Flash Fiction World forum, so they are much better now. One is an experiment with dialogue only flash fiction. It is tough to tell a story with no narrative or dialogue tags.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jaye, I think I will begin by putting the idea in the synopsis of my flash fiction stories. I can amend each one to include the concept. I'll see if I can get a few interested writers that way and hopefully it can spread by word of mouth. I can then list participants in the body of my ff hubs. If you have any ideas let me know. Emails with potential stories could be sent to participants for critique. Drafts of stories could be posted in a forum article asking for input as well. I suppose I could ask HP for a forum for this purpose.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      A critique group of FF writers would be very helpful, Chris. That's a good idea. How are you going to get it started? : )

      Jaye

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I need to get back over to your site and check out the latest, Chris. I've gotten behind lately with seeing what everyone else has been doing. Great to check in with you too, Chris.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Randy, who do you think you are kidding. You've already mastered FF and moved on. I quit counting my words for the most part. My stories are as long as they need to be. All word count rules are artificial. We are writers, not word counters. Thanks for being here Randy. It's always good to see you.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      A very fine article Chris, but you can't consider this hub "Flash non-fiction. lol!

      Seriously though, I keep saying I'll have a go at the FF format one day, but I really enjoy not having to count my words. I understand the concept and appreciate the ability of the writers--you included of course--to tell a tale in so few words.

      This hub covers everything a newbie to FF should know and then some. Great hub, Chris.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jaye, one of your stories was my introduction to flash fiction sometime in the last year and a half. I'd like to see a community of ff writers on HP to critique each other's stories before they are published. In this way the quality of the stories presented to the online community of readers would increase and the reputation of ff on HP would be elevated. thanks for reading Jaye.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Chris - I wrote another comment and posted it, but somehow it disappeared. I'll try to recall what I wrote the first time around.

      Your hub is an excellent promotion for the flash fiction format. You not only described what it is, but why there is a strong readership for this form of very short story. The websites devoted to FF are evidence of the popularity of this story form.

      By the way, thanks for including me in the list of HP flash fiction writers. I feel honored to be in such stellar company.

      Voted Up+++ and shared

      Jaye

      P.S. I found Flash Fiction World Vol. 4 on Amazon and look forward to reading this compilation of FF stories. Congratulations for your story's inclusion in this collection.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Rosemay, I'm glad you liked the article. HubPages is not the best place to write fiction. That isn't really a judgement, it's just true. I was not writing fiction when I came here, so I can't criticize. Posting in the forum is a good idea. Having a flash fiction topic would make it easier for readers to find ff on the site. and would allow our stories to be rated against other such stories. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 3 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A great article Chris.

      Perhaps you should suggest a 'Flash Fiction' category in the forums where HP will see it.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      As you look for a career, be sure to follow your passion and not the green stuff. That will make for a much richer life.

    • profile image

      jambo87 3 years ago

      Thanks! I have to force myself to get writing again. Trying to finish school quick so I can do things besides go to class and study after work. Also trying to figure out how to escape New Jersey and find a career I don't dread.

      Congrats on your publications in Flash Fiction World Vol. 4!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      jambo, great to see you again. Are you still writing that awesome flash fiction that I've seen from you? Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      jambo87 3 years ago

      Great stuff, Chris. I like that you pointed out the differences between flash fiction and vignettes. And thanks for the shout-out!

    Click to Rate This Article