Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What makes a good flash fiction piece? - guest post by Juneta Key

I'm excited to be swapping posts with the awesome Juneta Key today. Please enjoy her excellent article about flash fiction, and hop on over to her blog to get a peek into my home and find out the little everyday things which helped inspire the Totem series.

Thank you so much, Christine, for inviting me to guest post on your blog today and post swap. You ask me.

What makes a good flash fiction piece?

To answer that question, we need to understand what flash fiction is about. It is a short story under 1000 words, generally right at or around 500 words. Flash fiction is the length of one short scene with emotional IMPACT using shocks, twists, irony, OR something deeply meaningful to end it.

Anything less than 500 that is Micro Fiction, which has several sub-categories, or anything more than 1000 words which would still be considered a short story, not flash fiction. The purpose of micro fiction is to express interesting ideas or tell a brief story in as few words as possible differing it from flash which depicts a scene or a “moment or realization” in the life of your character.

  • Flash fiction should possess all the qualities of story and scenes with the presentation of character with one problem. (hook & inciting incident)
  • At least 1 or 2 possibly conflicts to carry the story forward. (action) (brevity)
  • And a brief ending, creating an overall satisfying capsule of the story. The short word limit only has room to capture a meaningful or powerful moment in the character’s life.

Flash fiction should give the reader some satisfaction with its ending. The more complete and self-contained the story the better.

  • I try to create a “semblance” of the 3-arc structure when I write flash fiction keeping it loose with word limits.
  • One or two descriptive words for character e.g. nervous typist, sarcastic officer, disillusion magician
  • One or two descriptive words for setting, e.g. windy sidewalk = city, snowy incline = anything from hill to Everest or ski resort, sweltering heat = anything from the beach to desert, rolling hills = countryside/farmland. The setting can be woven into the conflict with descriptive words. (middle)

The key is to weave in descriptive and action words to create emotion, forward action, intriguing and interesting conclusions. Flash is so brief the most you hope for is to evoke emotion in the reader or leave questions and possibilities.

  • Remember conflict= action taken, has consequence for the character: It is not just a sequence of unrelated events.

Make the character responsible for his choices and actions.

  • Action = reaction BUT conflict has real consequence for the character to deal with or accept, a lot of times with compounding effects.

I prefer flash fiction that engages me, evocates reaction, thought, curiosity, irony, and/or the shock factor. 
The shock factor must be meaningful, or I won’t read that author again.  It must intrigue or raise a question, not make me feel bad or disappointed.  It must be consistent with the tone of the story.

StorytimeBlog Hop flash fiction by several different authors in 2015 & 2016
Dragon Smoke & Wind by Karen Lynn (This one is one of my favorite from July 2016 blog hop.


  1. I've written a couple things within that length. It was more difficult than I thought. Ironic as well. Especially as I look at that second chart and realize my science fiction novels all fell short of 90,000 words.

  2. Love that chart! I think I've written pretty much every length under and including short story, including 25 words (hint fiction!) :)

  3. You make some great points about flash fiction, Juneta! The chart is great too. I haven't heard of a dribble before.

  4. Hi Juneta :-) When I started writing I could not get my stories longer than about 1200 words. Slowly, I was able to expand my ideas, but I still love flash fiction. That chart is really useful.

  5. Christine thanks so much for having me today. Such a great idea to swap post. This is my first guest post on someone else's blog. Thank your that experience.

    I just realize we probably should have added you new books to the post too.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  6. I love writing drabbles. The 100 word limit is a nice challenge that makes me think.

  7. I really enjoy a good bit of flash fiction! Though I personally feel most comfortable writing in the short story length :)

  8. Love the chart. I had never heard of some of those story types. I'm leaving here a little smarter.

  9. Thank you so much, Christine, for having this idea and inviting me to post swap. It was a lot of fun. I would have posted back to comments here but it does not give me the option to reply to them only to post.

    **To Everyone who Commented, thank you and I so glad you enjoyed the post. **
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  10. I tried writing flash fiction once. I'm not sure anyone who isn't familiar with my stories already would get it though. That probably defeats the purpose of it being flash, huh? I posted it to my site as free to read, regardless.

    Very cool details and perspective on the different word counts.

  11. I really got into flash fiction a few years ago and found that it really helped improve my writing. I published several pieces with Every Day Fiction, and even got paid for it (albeit a very nominal amount). Still, it was a great experience:) Happy holidays, Christine!

  12. You're welcome, Juneta! It was a pleasure having you here. And thank you to everyone for stopping by. :)