One Writer’s Journey

April 15, 2014

Writing Short: Flash Fiction from the perspective of a children’s writer

Flash fictionLast week, I read an article on writing flash fiction.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, flash fiction is simply really short fiction.  What do I mean by really short? There doesn’t seem to be any one definition for how short is short.  I’ve seen anything from 500 to 1000 words.  If you write for children, you may be looking at that 1000 word limit and thinking “that’s a lot!” But the term flash fiction most often applies to writing for adults.

Here are some of the tips that I read about writing flash ficiton:

  • Tell, don’t show.  With such a low word count, there simply isn’t room for showing.  Jenny doesn’t know many people in New Haven.
  • There is no backstory.  Again, word count eliminates the ability to let the reader know more than the bare bones.  Jenny is divorced and new to town.
  • Don’t worry about three act structure.  Again, word count.  Jenny struggles to meet people in her new town until she meets Zach. We don’t read about the failures, you just tell us that she doesn’t know many people.

I have to admit that these words of wisdom surprised me.  We children’s writers write short all the time.  We right within these word counts and we manage to work in a hint of backstory, show vs tell, and establish a three act struction.  Often we do this in 500 words.  1000 words is like a smorgasboard.  What’s the big deal?

I suspect, but I don’t know, that for a short story writer who may have had 3000 words to play around with, this is a challenge.  3000 words, over half the length of a Magic Tree House book, gives you a lot more space for character development, setting, building tension and all the rest.

I’ve been mulling this over because I’m shaking up my writing a bit, trying new things and looking for new markets.  One market I’m considering is flash fiction, because, as we know, I write short.  Overshooting my maximum word count isn’t a problem for me nearly as often as not quite reaching the minimum.  I suspect that, like with all types of writing, it is a matter of learning the conventions of this particular form and telling a compelling story.

The question is — will my compelling story be flash fiction or not.




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