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How should I start to write a flash fiction story?

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I recently saw a contest for writing flash fiction - the contest rules were that it had to be under 100 words long. I thought "Hey, that's cool! I'll give it a shot."

So I sat down, and tried to start writing something. Emphasis on tried - nothing would come that would work as a super short story. Everything that I started to write seemed like the beginning of an epic fantasy novel (because to be honest, I read a lot of that).

What are some tips for starting to write short stories?

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As is often the case, great writing in the past shows us the way. Consider this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_sale:_baby_shoes,_never_worn

Never mind whether "X wrote it for reason Y" claims are true: why does the story work, and how did anyone come up with it? The trick, as you can probably surmise by reading the 6-word story, is to write a fictional document whose existence implies the storyline you've dreamed up. Obviously there are probably other ways it can be done, but that's how this story did it.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/32047. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I recently saw a contest for writing flash fiction - the contest rules were that it had to be under 100 words long. I thought "Hey, that's cool! I'll give it a shot."

So I sat down, and tried to start writing something. Emphasis on tried - nothing would come that would work as a super short story. Everything that I started to write seemed like the beginning of an epic fantasy novel (because to be honest, I read a lot of that).

I make that 83 words, but I might have counted the em dashes. Not the most exciting story in the world, but it had my attention. You could do with more of a punchline and/or twist at the end, but you've got another 17 words left for that, or maybe even 19. How about:

I entered the competition anyway and unexpectedly won, but then a dragon flew down and bit my head off.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/32051. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Flash fiction gives you very little leeway. 100 words won't allow for extended plot, character development, scene-setting... really, it's enough for one scene. I've seen people pull off more in that wordcount, but it's hard and you're a beginner.

Imagine one scene that is interesting enough to write about. Write it. How long is it? Is it interesting? If not, is there any excess you can trim to make room? Trim, revise, iterate.

Some flash fiction lends itself to a twist at the end. If you know what the twist is, you can work backwards from that to figure out where you need to start to get to the twist in < 100 words.

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Try coming at the number limit from the other side.

Rather than trying to think of a story you can condense to 100 words, which can feel as though you are having to cut out and sacrifice too much, try starting from a prompt such as a common phrase and play with it to see what you can grow to 100 words.

Someone has already pointed out that your question is getting on for 100 words, which should already you a feel for how much you can get across within that limit.

I thought that before I submitted this as an answer I should try it out for myself...

So, most stories are about relationships in some way, which might be why the phrase ‘It isn’t you’ popped into my head, then I thought about what if it was literal, what if somebody wasn’t themself? What if they’d been transformed somehow, what if they’d somehow become a monster and didn’t know… How could they not know, how could someone else know before they did? So I played with that a little to come up with something.

It's far from a perfect short story, but demonstrates how, in 100 words, you can start from a small notion and build up to something which hints at what went before, what happened 'off camera' and what might happen next.I went for cheesy word play, pulp horror and bad writing tropes, but you could go classier. Here's the short tale of when Chuck got handsy.

He stood, two arms full of logs, ‘‘Leaving’? You weren’t ‘leaving’ down by the fire ten minutes since when my hand…’ he gestured crudely. ‘What changed?’

Hannah backed towards the door, bag and coat spilling, all trembling fingers and thumbs, shaking her head desperately, ‘it isn’t you, …’

Gripping the firewood tightly, Chuck ran a hand through his hair as he reached out in supplication and confusion. ‘Babe, what? You meet someone while I was gettin’ logs?’ Menace shaded his voice as the hand at his back reached for the poker.

‘No, it isn’t you… Chuck only has two hands.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/32061. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I write a lot of 100-word stories. I don't know what will work best for you, but here's what I do.

I start with a single dramatic moment: a moment of change or a revelation. Then I write what the reader needs to know to understand the moment. They need to know that there are two people. They don't need their names, but they need their relationships and attitudes. They usually need to know where the characters are.

I write all that. It's usually more than 100 words. So now I ruthlessly cut unnecessary words. Replace adjectives and adverbs with meaningful verbs. Restructure sentences to use fewer words.

Then I tweak it about a million times, looking for places where I've lost meaning and clarity and emotional impact.

That's me. After you write a few, you'll develop your own processes. (And, as always, read a lot of them.)

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/32066. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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