Writing Exercises for Flash Fiction

By Annie Raab

There’s no doubt about it: flash fiction is HOT right now. Maybe our text-and-tweet driven world is having some influence on creative practices. Or our attention spans are becoming more receptive to bite-sized stories as opposed to lengthy novels. But flash fiction isn’t as easy as it looks. The genre behaves more like poetry, in that each word must be carefully considered in order to belong in the constricted space of the lil. Rather than begin with a huge story and whittle it down into a smaller one, consider the following writing exercises particularly good for generating micro fiction.

Exercises

-Write 15 sentences that begin with “If I could revise my life…” and select the most compelling one to continue until you reach 200 words—a nice flash first draft.

-Write a 500 word scene of a story that doesn’t yet exist. Include all the traditional elements of a scene: character, setting, dialogue, etc.

-Write a 350 word scene—don’t skimp on the elements of craft!

-Write a 100 word scene. Does it fit? Is it possible??

-Write a single beautiful sentence with dramatic weight and a dense storyline, paying careful attention to each word and punctuation mark. (If you can do this, the fabled flash fic fungi will sprout from your kitchen floor to congratulate you on your achievement! Hooray!)

-Write 250 words about a single image, character, or event.

-Write 50 words about a single idea. (See “My Dangerous Idea” for inspiration)

Throughout these exercises, pay more and more attention to words you can eliminate, replace, or alter to pivot the story and language. Think about opposites and contrasts that can exist in these small spaces, and how these elements of craft add or reduce dramatic tension. One way to assess contrasts and drama is to make a scale from one idea to its opposite, and use the in between places to build action into your story. This will become more difficult as the word count restrictions tighten. 

Good luck, writers! Be kind, be brave, be very smol.

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