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What Is Flash Fiction?

Updated on September 6, 2011

Mars might be a good setting for a flash fiction story

Mars as viewed from the Hubble spacecraft
Mars as viewed from the Hubble spacecraft | Source

Flash Fiction Flourishes In the Electronic Age

One of the most classic examples of a very short story is a six word line penned by Ernest Hemingway, reportedly made to settle a bar bet. The well known phrase reads, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” This amazingly minute collection of words actually satisfies the major requirements of a short story, for this short burst of text comes complete with a protagonist, conflict and resolution. Just by reading this little piece of fiction disguised as an ad, the reader can learn quite a bit. Evidently, a child has been born and for some reason, perhaps death the young one will never walk.

Though flash fiction today is generally much longer than this baby shoe example, it still goes by many names including sudden fiction, very short stories or short short stories. Moreover, flash fiction has become a child of the computer age, for presently in flourishes especially in online journals, where a simple piece of flash fiction can be presented onscreen in its entirety.

Furthermore, flash fiction effectively simulates the way, we communicate with each other in the 21st century. Information tends to come at us in short bites. The long dissemination thought process necessary for evaluating a long, involved novel or even a two and a half hour feature film still exists, but so often it seems to have been replaced by the media burst and sound bite.

Just because flash fiction is shorter in length, does not mean that this type of short story is a cinch to write. In fact, the art of creating flash fiction presents many challenges, such as successfully developing a protagonist, conflict and then finding a resolution to the conflict.

In an effort to get the heart of the story, many examples of flash fiction begin with a quickly sketched yet striking setting. Sometimes, the title is used to help create a mood and set the stage for the story. Change of scene is not always found in flash fiction; and to emphasize a point, many flash storylines include a twist in the action, resulting in a surprise ending.

Word count can determine a flash fiction writing, but still, one has to be careful when using this method, for the way a story is presented might also influence the final judgement. A good rule of thumb has flash fiction coming in at under a thousand words. However, many anthologies of flash fiction include passages of 1500 words or more. On the short end of the stick, many of the most recent flash fiction writings seems to be involving towards the shorter range with tales of 500 words or less now being quite common for the venue. When looking at the varying word counts, readers should keep in mind the two adjectives, sudden and flash. For when a story is labeled as sudden or flash fiction, there often occurs a surprise turn of events or unexpected outcomes that help deliver the punch and enthrall the reader.

Flash fiction or sudden fiction often displays a slice of life
Flash fiction or sudden fiction often displays a slice of life | Source


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    • megni profile image

      megni 5 years ago

      Helium in the Creative category has several writers of flash fiction. It's a favorite of theirs. I'm in the process of learning since I want to turn thoughts an d ideas into a three or four hundred flash fiction story.

      I found your thought, sudden or flash happening insightful. Thanks for your help.

    • nighthag profile image

      K.A.E Grove 6 years ago from Australia

      A great write up, being both a reader and a writer of fiction it is so good to see this genre getting more attention of late, its an exciting time to be a writer!

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 6 years ago from South Carolina

      WOW I never heard of this either. Very well written and indeed interesting!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      Wow, I've never heard of flash fiction. This is so cool.

      A well-written and interesting hub!