Hello again everyone! I’m Ms Geraldine, a teacher and curriculum writer at Lil’ but Mighty. If you’ve already read my previous blog posts of the Write for Fun series, it is probably obvious I am passionate about creative writing. The Write for Fun series hopes to make writing less intimidating for students through fun free-writing exercises. Check out my first blog post if you are keen to rewrite the stories of your favourite characters, especially if you were unhappy with how they were portrayed by their actual creators. Or, if you are someone who grew up asking questions like “What if the sky was pink?” and “What if we could breathe underwater?”, take a look at my second blog post, which allows you to use these questions as a premise for a writing exercise!
Today, in this fourth post in the Write for Fun series, I am going to share a writing exercise especially suited to those of you who are reluctant writers. Perhaps you feel an aversion to creative writing because you associate it with six-page long stories, a need for flowery language, and your own lack of writing stamina. If you find that you are constantly feeling fatigued and exhausted after writing page after page after page, then this writing exercise on FLASH FICTION is for you! Besides feeling empowered after trying out this short and sweet writing exercise, I guarantee that you won’t be feeling tired too.
Before we go into the specifics of today’s exercise, I want to first address the question some of you may have: what on earth is flash fiction? Flash fiction is a type of short story defined by its word count and how short it is. Kept within a range of strict word counts, flash fiction aims to tell a story in the least number of words possible. A flash fiction story rarely goes beyond 1000 words, and many writers have even written flash fiction using six words or less. This is why it lives up to its name — it tells a story in a flash! Take a look at an example of a flash fiction story below (with a word count of just 81 words):
By using the above story as an example, let me now go over the three main elements you should include in your own flash fiction:
1. A Conflict or Problem
Most flash fiction follows the same story mountain and structure found in your storybooks and compositions, though of course—due to the nature of the genre—the story events in flash fiction have been greatly condensed. For example, characters and settings in flash fiction may not be introduced and described in detail. Most importantly, however, flash fiction must feature a conflict or a problem, namely the high point in your story mountain. In fact, most flash fiction stories tend to begin directly at this conflict/problem.
Consider Bruno by Michael Rumsey. The first paragraph introduces the conflict immediately: the narrator does not like dogs, but Daniel brought home a dog.
2. A Resolution (Usually with a Twist!)
Naturally, if there is a conflict, there must be a resolution in which the problem is solved, which usually happens towards the ending lines of the story. Great flash fiction tends to introduce a surprising and unexpected twist within these last lines. To do this, writers of flash fiction usually deliberately mislead readers in the earlier parts of the short story into making certain assumptions about characters, places, or things, before subverting these expectations entirely.
In Bruno by Michael Rumsey, the author deliberately misleads us into assuming that the narrator is a human being living with Daniel. After all, we expect our narrators in most stories to be human. The narrator of the story Bruno also sounds highly intelligent and strongly opinionated, traits we associate with being human.
The twist, of course, comes in the ending lines where we realise that the narrator is actually a cat.
This revelation adds even more nuance and depth to the earlier paragraphs too. We realise why the narrator has never liked dogs — it is a well-known fact that cats and dogs do not get along. We also realise Daniel must be the narrator’s owner. Finally, the fact that the narrator had wished to be consulted by Daniel before he brought home the dog Bruno is reminiscent of how domestic cats are stereotypically thought to be territorial, demanding, and unfriendly.
3. Vivid Descriptions
One may think that flash fiction pieces are also short on descriptions to save space. However, a strong piece of flash fiction will balance vivid descriptions alongside a quick-moving plot. To do this, you should choose specific, precise adjectives and verbs that help you convey important parts of your story.
In Bruno by Michael Rumsey, there are many precise verbs and adjectives that the author uses to paint vivid ideas in the reader’s mind. These words are bolded and underlined below:
Consider how Bruno is described by the narrator. The descriptions used allow you to easily imagine a rowdy and clumsy dog which is likely to get on anyone’s nerves!
It is thus important to choose your words carefully when writing flash fiction, especially given its short length. The more vivid and precise your descriptions are, the more impactful your short story will be!
And hooray! You now have an in-depth understanding of what flash fiction is, as well as its three most important elements. It is thus time for you to attempt planning for and writing one piece of flash fiction yourself, by following the steps below. To guide you in the process, I will also be carrying out the steps with you — you can find my own answers in the images below each step.
STEP 1: THE MAIN CHARACTER(S)
Grab a piece of paper and write your choice of main character(s) in the centre of your page. Keep in mind that your story is meant to be short—so a maximum of two main characters is ideal.
Do note that you can be creative with your choice of characters/narrators. Your characters do not need to be human — in fact, for most flash fiction the twist comes from the revelation that the narrator is NOT human. You can also choose to write from the first person perspective in order to conceal the unexpected nature of the narrator’s identity!
STEP 2: THE CONFLICT or PROBLEM
Identify the conflict or problem involving your main character(s) and add it as a branch extending from the circle in the middle of your page. Whatever this conflict or problem is, make sure it is simple enough that it can be portrayed succinctly within a few lines. Remember, also, that most flash fiction pieces start directly at the moment of conflict or problem in order to hook the reader.
STEP 3: THE RESOLUTION (with a TWIST!)
Having identified your conflict/problem, add to the mind map by jotting down how you want this conflict/problem to be resolved. When considering this resolution, see if there is a way you can introduce a twist here. What shocking or unexpected piece of information about your characters can you reveal here that would surprise your reader?
Tip: If you are finding it difficult to introduce a twist to your story based on what you have planned so far, remember you can always tweak your plan based on the twist you wish to introduce.
Some questions you can ask yourself while brainstorming for a twist include:
• What are some expectations and assumptions a reader would have made about my main character, the setting of the story, OR the plot of the story?
• What can I reveal about my main character, the setting of the story, OR the plot of the story to subvert my reader’s expectations and assumptions?
STEP 4: WRITE YOUR SHORT STORY and BE DESCRIPTIVE!
Now you have all the necessary elements to write your piece of flash fiction. Remember that your story can be as short as you wish it to be, as long as it addresses all the key elements you planned out above. Do remember to include vivid descriptions to make your writing even more impactful.
If you are curious, here’s the flash fiction I wrote using my plan above:
And there you go! My step-by-step tutorial on how to write an exciting piece of flash fiction. I hope this exercise has shown you that short stories have as much value as long pieces of writing, so don’t be afraid to explore such writing in your own free time! Do note, of course, that you should not be writing flash fiction for your own compositions in school, especially since those essays require much more plot development and description.
If you are feeling inspired, leave a comment with your flash fiction piece below. Till next time, happy writing!
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