Do you flash your fiction?

letters-632072_1280Flash fiction is something I’ve only really tuned into over the past couple of years, but the more I learn of it and read it, the more I like it. It’s inevitable then, that I intend to try my hand at it…

Having recently read about the art of flash fiction (or short fiction as I think I prefer to call it – ‘flash’ almost seems to detract from the amount of work involved – as if the stories are dashed out without any thought) in Short Circuit – A Guide to the Art of the Short Story, I subsequently won a book of short fiction – More Sawn-Off Tales – from Salt Publishing this week. It was purely coincidental, but it turns out that the author of this little gem of a book, David Gaffney, also wrote the chapter on flash fiction that I’d read in Short Circuit. Perfect.

Gaffney’s shorts are 150 words each, and offer a fascinating insight into the art – and it sure is an art – of flash fiction writing. As I often tell my copywriting clients – editing writing down to the bare minimum; stripping away all the superfluous information to convey the same message in fewer words, is time-consuming, and requires a real skill. Gaffney’s stories are intriguing, poignant, bizarre and yes, sometimes odd, but that’s why they’re great. They’re perfect polaroids of people’s lives – they drop us into a compelling scene, give us a taste of a life and leave us wanting more, but just satisfied enough to have enjoyed the story and not to feel cheated by the experience.

To do that, my friends, is a skill.Gaffney book

As daunting as it may be to think about writing my own little nuggets of literary shorts, I do like a challenge, so I am, of curse, going to attempt my own flash fiction very soon. I think the idea is to start long and then to strip the story down, as opposed to trying to write a few hundred words on the first go. (Unless you’re as talented as Gaffney of course, who wrote most of his 150-word tales on the train).

To the man himself, then, and some of his top tips:

  • Start the story in the middle – make sure the ending isn’t at the end
  • Don’t use too many characters
  • Make your title work hard
  • Make your last line ring like a bell

That’s all there is to it! (Gulp…)

Get writing short fiction 🙂


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