This article is written for #LitResources. Our goal is to be a collection and creation station for all resources pertaining to literature on deviantART. This article will focus on Flash Fiction Month! It will include information about what specifies flash fiction, activities around dA for flash fiction month, and links to resources revolving around FFM activities.
If, after reading the article, you have more information or resources to add, please leave your thoughts in a comment! And don't forget to this article to help spread the word.
What Is Flash Fiction?
Put simply, flash fiction is a very short story. Lengths can vary from as few as six words (i.e. Hemingway's famous Baby Shoes) to a thousand, sometimes more. It depends largely on the outfit for which the author decides to write a piece of flash fiction. For the purpose of flash fiction month, most pieces are kept under 1,000 words.
Flash fiction differs from a vignette in that it contains traditional elements of story writing - protagonist/antagonist, conflict, plot, and resolution. The brevity of the form forces the author to include only events and details vital to the story's telling, which sometimes means larger elements such as character development are only hinted at, leaving the reader to fill in the back story from his/her own imagination.
Many of the last century's most celebrated authors wrote flash fiction, including HP Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, and Ray Bradbury. The advent of the internet made flash fiction a much more popular form. Some publishers popped up specifically for the form and events like Flash Fiction Month were organized between groups of writers to celebrate the intricacies of brevity.
What is Flash Fiction Month?
Every July writers from all over the world commit to writing as many pieces of flash fiction as they can in 31 days. Many make this a daily challenge to write one story every day. Others choose to write one or two a week. Participants gather on online forums and groups to read and comment on each others work and offer encouragement and enthusiasm. On dA the hub for all things FFM is Flash-Fic-Month.
An Interview with FFM Participants
Seven of this year's FFM participants were kind enough to answer some questions for this article. The questions are intended to give new and more experienced flash fiction writers some ideas for improving their craft. Big thanks to ShadowedAcolyte, fyoot, SilverInkblot, lion-essrampant, Coramyrth, TheSkaBoss, and angeljunkie for their time and insights.
1. What do you feel makes a piece of flash fiction "good writing"?
: Usually, it's hard to get across a lot of characterization in so short a space. When I can visualize the characters of a flash fiction piece as full and complex beings, not stand-in cliches or stock characters, I think the writer has done a good job using the space. It's also really important to avoid the "800 uhoh" wrap-up (I have a huge problem with this myself, so I tend to notice it elsewhere). It's when your word count hits 800 and you have only a few short paragraphs left to wrap things up to a meaningful ending. You get pretty desperate and no matter how good your intro or how interesting your characters, the piece overall doesn't leave a positive feeling in a reader's mind because of the unsatisfactory resolution. Idly, I think a lot of fiction writers who write long series have a similar problem.
: I think a piece of flash fiction has to have great words - after all, you can only use a few of them, so they should be chosen wisely. It should also be a complete story, and tell a lot in few words. Redundant or supplementary information should probably be left out.
: If it's less than 1,000 words, it has to catch the attention of the reader's fast, and keep it until the end. It's not like a novel, where you can have slow parts and fast parts. It's fast until it's done.
: There's something about being able to put an entire story into the fewest words possible - it takes a certain skill or knack to do that. Events like NaNaWriMo may get all the attention, but that's all about quantity. Flash fic is precisely the opposite; quantity is your least concern. I'd rather have 500 words of quality than an entire novel of nothing.
: With flash stories I find it's always more about the twist than anything else. Or the angle. It's the 'what if ___ happened?' or 'what if ___ existed?' and the random flashes of inspiration that happen to writers all the time when they're too busy to dedicate the time needed for them. Flash fiction lets you write all the 'this would be an awesome little idea, I need to write this down!' that you get without having to worry too much about in-depth characters/settings/plots, because you have no room for those.
2. What elements (conflict, characterization, language use, etc) do you try to incorporate when you write flash fiction?
: Characterisation and language are pretty primary focuses for me anyway, so I'd say those definitely find their way into all of my work. I'd say most of my flash fiction revolves either around contextualisation (things changing what they are depending on when/where we encounter them) or character studies. Conflict finds its way in there, but you usually have to hunt for it.
: In writing this short, I try to use a strong hook at the start. I also like to end with a twist of some kind, but that's because I'm a horrible hack. Obviously flash fiction is going to be low on subplot so it will generally focus around one central conflict, but I'm afraid I don't separate the elements of a story out like that when I write. An idea will simply spring fully-formed out of one of the excellent prompts provided for the purpose (or it won't, more likely, and I'll stare at a blank screen for three hours).
: All of them; any of them; none of them. It depends on the piece. I go with my gut on these. There are no set rules I can give you to make your flash fiction good, I'm afraid. I don't think there are any rules. If there are, I sure don't know them. I write flash on instinct. Anything else only comes into it later for editing after feedback.
: Really though, it depends on what type of flash fic we're talking about. The stuff that approaches 1000 words has more room to play with elements like characterization; the shorter stuff on the 55 words end of the scale doesn't leave as much room to maneuver. You don't have time to hash out a conflict; you have to find another way to tell the story.
: For me, I try to take advantage of FFM (and the quick and dirty nature of FF in general) to explore tones, points of view, and themes that I don't normally write about. I don't focus much on language use. I think one thing that is harder to get across in a short space (and that it helps to think about before you start writing) is conflict--setting it up, bringing up the intensity, crashing through the climax, and providing some kind of resolution can take a lot of wordspace if you don't have a clear idea of where you're going.
3. Does the word limit make flash fiction harder to write than normal fiction?
: Yes and no. Often for me, if I have a less clear idea about where a story or scene is going, I can just write and write and write, making it way longer than I need it to be, and then I can pare it down to the essentials. That doesn't work as well with flash fiction, because you end up with something that might be 1200 words and there's nothing left to take away. You've got to be more concise as you're writing, which for me is a lot harder. However, when it comes to motivation, it's a lot easier to carve out the time to write a flashfic than to sit down and write a longer scene, and that makes it easier to actually get it done. Overall, I'd say slightly harder, because worrying about concision and wordcount is one extra thing of top of all the other considerations buzzing around a writer's head while he or she writes.
: In my experience, the word limit only makes it harder to write flash fiction when the piece you're writing isn't really flash fiction at all but a short story you're trying to shoehorn into something smaller. When you try and do that, you end up with a very tell-y story, because you run out of room to let the story tell itself. For that reason, I try and use story ideas of the appropriate size to be dealt with in under 1000 words. It doesn't always work.
: No. Not at all. Quite the opposite, I find. I live for restrictions. This is the same reason #ScreamPrompts is so good for me. When anything goes it can be overwhelming to write and this is quite often the cause of writer's block. Forcing restrictions and deadlines makes writers actually write, and that's always the hardest part. Once again, anything else can be edited afterwards. Just get the bloody thing down on paper first. (I say paper, I've not actually written on paper in a long time. You all knew what I meant.)
: Definitely. You have less words to express what you want to express, therefore there is less character development and plot development. There's less time to get to know and love the characters. It has to be immediate.
: Yes and no. For one thing, working with limits does get easier, but my answer isn't to what you think - when it comes to word limits, especially short ones like 100 words, most people pull their hair out trying to make cuts. I'm usually struggling to reach the limit. After doing those stringent limits for a while, you get really good at being concise. It's gotten to a point where I consider 500 words a LOT. I have genuine trouble writing short stories even because I'm so used to flash fic.
4. Do you have any resources you'd like to share pertaining to flash fiction?
: The FFM prompt bank is always useful for starters. I recommend looking back through previous years if nothing grabs you from the current selection. In terms of reading flash fiction, there are some awesome micro fiction and flash fiction journals out there. I recommend browsing the stories at Matter Press, Fuselit, and Hoot. The tips in this article are all worth following except the last one, which I personally disagree is the ideal approach to writing flash fiction.
: The FFM chat room. If you're having any difficulties with writing flash at all, come bug the mods and prompt assistants in there. We're all more than willing to help. I'm afraid I don't have any guide-type resources to offer you; I don't use them and wouldn't know where to find them. So I'll just say that I learned to write through three very simple things: Reading. Critiquing. Writing. Probably in that order. Trust me when I tell you that the best thing you can do for your writing is to read other people's and critique it. Figure out where they're going wrong (it's easier from an outsider point of view) and you'll start to notice when you fall into the same traps.
: Thesaurus.com. For real. Use it. Even if you aren't writing flash fic - getting the exact word you need is a boon to any writer. Other than that, dA itself - this place is a hive of quality flash fiction. Start reading - that's the best way to learn after all.
Examples of Great Flash Fiction
These examples were gathered from this poll. These are only a handful of pieces. I highly recommend you check out the other suggestions deviants from all over the site left there.
Tears In HeavenMommy looks just like an angel. She said she would be one soon and tells me not to be sad because she'll be looking over me where God is.
"I won't be able to teach you the things my mommy taught me, and the things her momma taught her," her dry hands felt soft on my cheek, "but maybe some day you'll have a new Mommy. Someone who can make your daddy smile again." She gazed at him from her hospital bed. He wanted to speak but choked back tears instead.
"But can't I make Daddy smile?"
It's been a year and a half, my memory of her is like air. I don't know if it's real or what I think I remember when I read the letters she left behind. He wouldn't look at me anymore. "You look just like your mother," he used to say, before Mommy went to Heaven. His thin dark-brown hair, her olive green eyes.
That was until First Grade when we met my teacher, "Mr. Martin, but you can call me Connor," he said to Daddy. He grinned and asked if there was a Missus Martin but Mr. Martin said 'No' and flashed tha
7 The Troll'Look, just let us cross the bridge, will you?'
The troll had come out of nowhere. One minute it was me, my squire, and our steeds, an endless landscape of summer pasture before us, a few innocent sheep on the hillside, and a stripling of a stream dazzling sunlight off its sheer surface.
Then the troll was on the bridge and wouldn't let us pass.
The bridge was very narrow and the troll was so fat his sides scraped either wall. Stones crumbled off and skittered into the water with musical 'plops' as he moved.
'RAAAAAAAAARRGH!' he raged, which we took to mean 'no'.
'Why on earth not?'
The troll was squat and greyish with big blobby eyes like sick jellyfish. He wore a tunic constructed of pondweed and loose newspaper pages. He was sopping wet from lying about in the stream.
'Mrrrow!' Timothy's steed was impatient. He got the cat and I got the dog because he was youngest.
'Look,' I explained, 'we're trying to fight a dragon. We've got a whole seven miles to go before nightfall. We'll never
distinctionThis is what I cannot understand.
There is an understanding that nothing is ever black and white. Good can be achieved through bad means, what's wrong can sometimes be right, and if you turn right for long enough, you eventually go left. Boys can be girls who fall in love with girls who sometimes think they are boys and the lines between everything end up irreversibly blurred.
Or so I've always thought.
But this is a line that cannot be blurred. This is the only remaining clear-cut line that separates black from white as perfectly as a color wheel. And that is the fact that everything is until it isn't. We are until we aren't. We breathe until we don't. We live until we die. There is no gray area, no matter what the talk of doctors and comas and life support and brain death might say. Your heart beats until it doesn't.
This goes beyond just life and death. Emotions are until they aren't. As are moments, definitions, seasons. Two people falling in love, well, some of them inevitably cra
My Sign? Exit.
Levon leaned his head against the cold steel of the shower tube, letting the jets of water assail his body from all sides. As the sweat of the previous night's activities rinsed away, the more subtle indicators of his exertions seeped in. Both his head and kidneys ached from the soup of chemical stimulants and depressants he'd drank, sniffed and injected with the woman now sleeping naked in the next room.
Dimly pulsing warnings hovered in his peripheral vision, reminding him that his kidney augments were still on standby, having been parked the night before so as to not filter out his buzz. While he'd been busy not sleeping, they had been sifting through the different compounds in his bloodstream he'd forbidden them to remove, tracing their signatures for any information about them that may prove relevant. A brighter warning flashed, the proximity alarm on his equipment locker had been triggered. It would seem his night time entertainment was awake and nosing around. The warning strobe
StorytellerSee comments for the NEW LOCATION! Please fave there!
Adrian Gordon was an amazing writer when he was intoxicated enough. It seemed that one morning he awoke with a terrible hangover, and found half a novel manuscript open on his computer. The cursor blinked at him expectantly, but try as he might, he couldn't finish the story. The sentences and paragraphs and characters seemed to have lost their flowuntil he got himself drunk again.
That was how he told the story, anyway. And when Gordon told a story (the drunk Gordon, of course,) I was always left feeling like it was a story I'd known all my life. Like that story was only a chapter of all I'd experienced, something I'd gone through and remembered and romanticized all on my own, even when it was the story of a group of outlawed doctors disobeying laws of population control, or the tale of a time traveler bringing a famous book to it's young, unaware author. No matter the story, I became that doctor, that authoror th
Flash Fiction is a challenge to bring an entire story, or the idea of an entire story, into just a few hundred (or even less) words. Every person who writes flash fiction will approach it differently, but the essence of the craft is always brevity. Say the most you can in the smallest space.
For all things FFM, keep an eye on Flash-Fic-Month. Also, remember that our lovely CVs, thorns and BeccaJS are always on the hunt for DD suggestions. So if you read some great flash fic this month, be sure to note it to one of them. Their suggestions guidelines are here: thorns.deviantart.com/journal/… and here: beccalicious.deviantart.com/jo…
Questions? Leave them in a comment!
Thanks for reading.