What is flash fiction?
With only 100 words, there is very little room to describe people or places in much detail. To keep your word count down you have to choose your words carefully. If you find you have gone over the limit, look for words you can cut out while keeping the story intact. Because there are so few words available, the ones you choose must be there for good reason!
Here’s a trick to writing a good, punchy piece of flash fiction. Decide on just 1 point you want your story to make. 1 message, 1 joke, or 1 pearl of wisdom – then illustrate it as a very short story.
Flash fiction examples
"The alarm woke Curtis at 6 o’ clock. He wanted to get up early today to squeeze in some last-minute revision before the science exam. He remembered last week, gazing blankly around the school hall as everyone scribbled away. He always scored lowest. His classmates always laughed at him. Today he was ready. He practically knew the science textbook by heart. Today, he strode confidently to school. “You may turn over your papers now!” the teacher said. Eager, Curtis flipped his paper over. His heart dropped to his stomach at the sight of the geography questions."
The first story tells 1 joke. The second makes 1 point about the damage humans inflict with pollution. In flash fiction there isn’t space for complicated plots, so remember to keep your focus to 1 message.
- For your beginning, start with a situation (Boy who wants to do well in his exam / Alien bus flying through space).
- For the middle, the situation develops (Boy studying and going to school / Bus running out of fuel).
Getting your word count down
> Remove repetition. If 2 sentences mean basically the same thing, chop one out
> Replace long phrases with shorter ones
> Cut out words that don’t do much
> If the story still works without a particular word, phrase or sentence, chop it out.
These are not hard and fast rules. If your story is already under 100 words, there’s no need to keep cutting these things out of it, unless you want to. These are just guidelines to help you if you’re having trouble!
Below is the first story as before, but before any chopping. Can you see why the parts in bold got booted out? The story still works without them.
"The alarm woke Curtis at 6 o’ clock sharp. He wanted to get up especially early today to squeeze in some last-minute revision before the science exam. He did not want a repeat of last week, gazing blankly around the school hall as everyone else scribbled away. He always scored lowest. His classmates always laughed at him. Well not today. Today he was ready. He practically knew the science textbook by heart. He read over his notes one last time as he ate breakfast, and strode confidently to school. He’d show them. “You may turn over your papers now!” the teacher said. Eager, Curtis flipped his paper over. His heart dropped to his stomach at the sight of the geography questions."
Now your turn. Can you write a story in 100 words or under? If you need an idea to get started, head to the Idea Engine.