A few weeks back I handed in a 100-word story to a writing contest. A hundred words. That is one crazy number. How can you tell anything in 100 words? I just gave it a shot and it turned out pretty good. Along the way I noticed a few interesting things and learned more afterwards as flash fiction is quite an interesting art form.
Write a Lot of Stories
How I ever managed to narrow it down to a hundred words? Well, I just wrote a lot of different stories. Some were not meant for a 100-word story, but for 400 to 600-word narratives, perfect for the short stories on my blog. But then there was this one little tale that was roughly a hundred words. It took some heartbreaking trimming to get it down to 96 words, but there it was! This tiny story that I actually quite enjoyed.
I wrote some stories with writing prompts and some just because an idea sparked in my mind. As long as you keep in mind that it has to be a short story, you’ll probably be alright. However, you have to be aware of the fact that you can only have about one or two characters and one scene. This helps greatly when you are writing flash fiction. There are also some other techniques on the word and sentence level that I’ve learned along the way.
How to Trim
For flash fiction, there just isn’t any room to write long poetic descriptions of the scenery. If you want time to pass in your story, it has to pass quickly. How quickly? As quickly as writing down ‘the next day’. That’s something you have to consider: how can I tell something about my setting, about my character, about relationships and the plot, with as few words as possible. You just can’t do that if you need a whole lot of explaining for your story, so keep it straight and simple.
I learned this the hard way as I was writing a story about a boy, who had lost his mother. I’m sure this topic is suitable for a flash fiction story, but it wasn’t in the exact way I wanted to tell the tale. I decided on writing this boy’s story at the moment the funeral started. His entire family was present, aunts, uncles and cousins and there was this big moment when he was saying goodbye to his mum. There were too many characters and there was too much to explain about the setting. It worked well, but I quickly wrote a thousand words and well… That wasn’t really the brief, now was it?
This funeral scene and other stories that came before and after taught me how to be clever with my words. First of all, you have to cut out unnecessary words. That means you have to trim down your adverbs and adjectives. I’m not saying there can’t be any in there as it might give your narrative some flavour, but in general these words aren’t needed to make your story understandable and entertaining.
Another way to be clever with your wording is the actual words you use. Rather than saying ‘talked boringly for a long time’, you could write down ‘maundered on’. That’s two words instead of five. Using this in multiple instances can really help to keep the word count low.
What’s This Writing Contest?
Do you want to plunge into the flash fiction writing yourself? You can still participate in the flash fiction contest I submitted my story to. I spotted this writing contest while I was browsing David Farland’s blog. He was promoting a competition called the International Flash Fiction Competition. I was immediately interested as it was quite the challenge.
The contest is being organised by the César Egido Serrano Foundation, a Spanish foundation, which focuses on bringing people, religions and cultures together via the written word. A wonderful cause to write a story for! As the competition is open until 23 November, there’s still time for you to join the contest.
What are your thoughts on writing flash fiction? Have you attempted it? Let me know in the comments down below!