Hi – I’m Anna Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online and thanks for tuning in for ’13 tips for Writing flash Fiction’ or ‘Insider Tricks to Writing Insanely Short Stories’.
I want to focus on some fundamental tips for writing flash fiction ’cause it ain’t easy getting out of the slush pile and onto an editor’s desk. These tips will teach you how.
For flash fiction online stories must be between 500 and a thousand words. Those are some tight restrictions and that’s not a lot of space for your story, but as Shakespeare said, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’.
You can sum up flash fiction in that word brevity, though. The One tweet work out. Pretend you have one Tweet to convey the main idea. Take out all unnecessary words. Nothing shows you how to whittle down the sentence to the key elements better than Twitter.
Pretend you only get one single solitary Tweet to get the idea across. Can you do it? You don’t need all those adjectives and adverbs. Just use stronger nouns and verbs to do all the heavy lifting.
How To Write a Good Fictional Story – Useful Guidelines
For example don’t say ‘walk leisurely’ when you can say ‘sauntered’. Don’t say ‘small dog’ when you can say ‘Chihuahua’. Your specificity will build a better story with a smaller word count. Exception – for dialogue tags you’re better off just using ‘said’, as other verbs related to speech tend to be distracting. Trust us – ‘said’ is your friend.
Pick a key emotion to color the story. Readers love it when they feel something. Caution – do not manipulate the reader with melodrama. Melodrama is a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect, and then exaggerates some motion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.
You’ve gotta earn those fields and try ending in a different emotional place than where you start. Size matters. Big ideas go in big stories and small ideas go in small stories. It seems simple, right? Okay, at least until you try to do it, or until you try to figure out if you have a big idea or a small idea.
The main difference is how you explore your concept well. With the big idea there’s a lot going on. A big idea equals a civil war breaks out in on several noble houses for the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms, so you can think about it like a 360 degree panorama. No matter where you look, there’s that ‘big’ going on.
Next tip – limit your scenes. One scene might be best, otherwise the world building and setting could take up too much work out. The key is choosing a small but powerful moment in the character’s life and placing your story there. It’s the anti epic story.
Tip number six – pick a strong image. Give us a meaningful and memorable visual. You want a movie example? Indiana Jones shoots the fancy swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark or in the movie ‘Seven’ the box opening scene … speaking of characters, you don’t need more than 1 or 2. More than that and it gets dicey. Too much dialogue, too many interactions, 12 Disney Princesses sued over for a short story or novel. One day at sea, princess zoo boat for flash fiction. Just say no to character clutter.
Let’s talk about point of view and choosing the right point of view for a flash fiction story. You don’t have very much time, which means we need to jump right into your main character’s head and feel like we know them. You want a really tight point of view and if you don’t understand what’s POV as well, don’t worry – we’ll be posting some more videos about that later.
The quick answer is think about looking after someone else’s eyeballs. You’re better off using first person or third person limited points of view, which stick tight to the protagonist. Head hopping is particularly jarring in flash fiction and avoid third omniscient, which also brings in too many points of view and character baggage for such a small space.
If you’re using an admission, you’re probably bouncing around from character to character. With only a thousand words it gets really confusing to keep up with ‘who this person is’ and ‘who that person is’ and ‘where are we going’ in what tense. ‘What city you in’ and ‘what’s happening’.
Give us one character to know and care about and just with that character, one carry-on. No suitcase. There can be only one. The same goes for theme. You only have room for one. Make it count but don’t hit us over the head with it either. A subtle thing, that’s better than a hardcore one.
Humans don’t respond well to stories that are more about a lesson than entertainment. It’s ten to one Harry vs. Voldemort focused on one main conflict. Skip the subplots. JK Rowling is a master of subplots. If this were a Harry Potter flash, it would be stripped of everything else but the main conflict – Harry vs. Voldemort.
Harry wouldn’t be involved with Joe. Hermione wouldn’t campaign to free the house elves. Ron wouldn’t play Quidditch. Fred and George wouldn’t quit school to open a joke shop, and a million other things just wouldn’t fit. Remember Harry vs Voldemort. Start in the middle of the story, at the beginning of the conflict.
Avoid backstory or prologue and it’s best if you don’t use flashbacks or flash-forward either. They don’t work well in such a small space. Over the rainbow – make sure you have a character arc. There’s nothing more disappointing that a character who doesn’t grow, change or learn. Sure it happens but does it make a fulfilling experience, not particularly.
Choose an effective title. First impressions help, count, whatever. Let your title do some of the work but don’t give away the store to resolution with it either, titles that are spoilers. There you have it. Those are some of our tips for writing flash fiction and congratulations – you made it to the end of the video.
This is far longer than any flash fiction you’re gonna have to write, so well done. While you’re here, make sure to subscribe to our channel. Make sure to hit us up on Facebook and Twitter or on our website http://flashfictiononline.com. When you have those stories ready, go ahead and submit them, our submission link is there as well.
These aren’t hard and fast rules by any means. There are plenty of great exceptions out there but we’re confident that if you follow these aspects then you use the idea of brevity. You keep it short sweet and simple and to the point. You’ll have a lot easier time crafting some great fiction out there if you use this guide. Come back and let us know how it went. We want to hear from you.
If you have any questions leave them for us in the feedback and we’ll try to make videos and answer those questions for you as well. Just don’t forget – writing takes time. Just keep at it keep going anything you want. It’s never gonna come easy and writing is one of those things.
How to write fiction for beginners – Lessons from a Pro
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? If you ever thought that maybe you had something to say that other people might enjoy reading or listening to? My name is George Weir and I want to talk to you today about writing, particularly fiction writing.
I suppose the first thing you have to have to be a writer is to have a story or an idea or something that you want to communicate. Obviously, if you don’t have an interest in that area you’re not going to communicate well, and the person reading what you’re writing isn’t going to be very interested in it as well.
So what you can do is find that one thing that is right for you to communicate and I’m sure that you have some area of your life that that begs the question – ‘Would someone be interested in this? Would someone want to read about this?. I’m sure there is.
I talked to a guy at a book signing one time. He said, ‘George, you know I’m an older guy and I’ve had just this long life and I’ve done many things. I thought about writing but I wasn’t sure, you know, whether or not that other people would be interested in reading what I had to say. Also whether or not I would really have something to say’.
When I was talking to him I said, ‘Well, you know it may seem at times that your life is a barren wasteland. But f you were to really look at that wasteland, all the dust and the sand laying out there, and if you were to find some old sign buried under that sand and dust it off, hold it up and take a look at it, you might find some interest there.’
You might find something worth communicating. Something that’s important to you, so really it’s something that is important to you, that’s what we’ll communicate. Because that’s really all that writing is is – communication – don’t forget it.
I guess for the next point that sort of begs the question ‘Are you a storyteller’? Do you have something to write about?. There’s a little test to find out whether or not you are. Are you the kind of person that when you go to the camp-out, you can tell the story by the fire and have everyone’s attention and have them hanging on your every word?
How’s your timing? What do people say to you after you finish telling a story? Do people laugh at your jokes? If you want to take a look at writing, what writing is, it is the end result of evolution and our oral tradition.
Anciently, writing was handed down from father to son, or the village elder to the junior by word of mouth, long before there was ever any any writing of any kind. That essential element in writing has never gone away. In fact, I would say that it’s the prime requisite.
Can you tell a good story? I would submit that, as your readers that will tell you whether or not you can tell a good story. Now we all want to take a look at ourselves and not be too critical and not be too harsh. At the same time, be open and honest with ourselves. That’s kind of dancing a fine line there.
What you do not want to do is get up in front of a writing group and read your story in front of a writing group. However, if you’ll share your story with a friend who will be honest with you, I think that you’ll get far.
So is writing an art? Would we say that it’s one of the liberal arts? Is it one of the humanities? Is it a discipline? Could it be a science? Possibly. Regardless of which of these things you happen to think that it is, it all boils down to one thing and that is this thing called B-I-C, a very important thing, which stands for ‘butt in chair’.
You have to actually sit down, and this is going to be hard for me to tell you this, but you have to actually sit down and write. You have to bang out copy. You have to write and write and write. You’ll have to read a lot too. You have to be very interested in everything around you and you have to be very interested in what other people have to say.
You have to be able to get what they say and to be able to communicate. You’re not going to be able to do that unless you develop the habit of sitting and writing. Now I have never been able, I’ve been writing for 25 years, I have never been able to fit this activity into a certain time slot.
God bless the guys who can, and the women who can, I’m just not that that way. It’s a creative thing with me. There was a great writer named Richard Bach who wrote the Illusions of a Reluctant Messiah. He is famous for Jonathan Livingston Seagul.
He was a great writer and he said that essentially he couldn’t stand writing. He would, you know, he hated sitting at the typewriter and writing but that when his muse or a story idea would get him, it would grab him and drag him kicking and screaming over to the typewriter set him down and force him to write.
Really that’s what you’re looking for in your story idea. Does it compel you, because if it doesn’t compel you, it’s not going to compel your reader. It should compel you to write and then you should have the discipline to be able to write.
In a future video I’m going to talk about developing your voice and your style as a writer, and after that in another video we’ll talk about some tips for a short story writing. I want to thank you so much for listening to me. I really hope this information has been helpful. I want you to go to my website and download this free short story, and you’re welcome to leave your comments with me.
You can contact me directly through my website, and I really appreciate it. Please give me a thumbs up if you liked this video …