What the Heck is a Flash?

There is something of a “new” phenomenon going about the writing world these days, catching eyes of both writers and readers alike. It’s called a Flash. I mentioned it in one of my previous blogposts and honestly though people knew about it by now. But when I submitted one of mine to my local creative writing group I received some questioning stares. They hadn’t heard the term before and didn’t know what basic ground rules applied to it. And, since I shared with them, I figured it would be best to share with the blogosphere as well. For those of you who don’t know…

Actual Definition:

Flash – verb, to rush or dash, to break forth in or like a sudden flame, to appear suddenly

Writing Definition:

Flash – a very short story (other specificities depend on the writer or contest)

Other Names:

Micro-fiction, Sudden Fiction, Postcard Fiction, Short Short Story, A Smoke Long Story (Chinese, fabulous, right)

Basic Guidelines:

1)      It has to make sense. That being said, the shortest ever known was written by Ernest Hemingway, it went “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Yes, that’s a story; the reader gets to fill in the gaps. Other examples are Aesop’s fables, if you are more familiar with the classics.

2)      It has to have the classic elements of a story – protagonist, conflict, complications, and resolution. But, because it’s so short, most of the bulk of the story is unwritten. Take, for example, the 6-word Hemingway flash – almost the entire story is left up to the readers, did the parents give up the child? Did the mother lose it? Did an overenthusiastic aunt give the would-be parents an early present only to have it be a false positive? I’m certain he had a specific world built around these few words, but we will never know the rest of Hemingway’s tale because it was never written. We are forced to make up our own. As a writer, it forces us to leave out details, to hone our craft, to leave the reader with a sense of mystery… simply because we were not given enough words to tell the tale.

Important (not so little) Little Quirk:

(There is only one slight quirk defining the Flash from the rest of the styles of literature…)

There will be a horrible word-count.

It will be tiny – I’ve seen flash contests with a 300 word limit.

It will seem impossible to fit an entire story into that word count.

It’s not.

I’ve also seen a word limit of 1,000.

It depends on the contest the story is for, or the amount of torture writers want to put themselves through. (Personally I’ve done both ends of the spectrum and, although it may feel like someone’s stretching your mind on a rack, it’s fun to write a story in 300 words.)

After that, it’s just writing.

Interested? Find a contest online by typing ‘Flash Fiction Contests,’ see if there’s a prompt (it depends on the contest), write one out and submit! It’s a pretty interesting way to challenge your writing skills.

Annnd, that finishes up my What the Heck is a Flash post for the week. 

Warm regards,


4 thoughts on “What the Heck is a Flash?

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