What is flash fiction?

'Each drop encases its own separate note, the way each drop engulfs its own blue pearl of light.' 

This description of rain, from Stuart Dybek's story "Nighthawks," is as close to a definition of flash fiction as I can offer. A successful flash enchants us, each small story successfully rendered engulfing us for a brief moment - in a 'flash,' in its own brand of light, or truth. And the effects linger on...(Rose Metal Press)
  • FF is a place for reckless daring - you write strange sentences in a new voice. The ambition of a short short piece of fiction is not to get the readers to 'lose themselves' - how far can you get lost in a few hundred words? The effect of FF is just that, fast, (even if writing it isn't) and yet complete. The shape of the piece leaps out at the reader and is taken in as a whole, as if it were a picture, sketchy.
  • FF is about ambiguity, a singular moment, a slice of life, a sketch.
  • Consider how much you can leave out and still create a moving, complete narrative. Can you write a story that consists of only dialogue? How is it still a story? What is a story?

 I hereby introduce one of my earliest forays into ChatGPT – I asked AI to define Flash Fiction and I think it/they/him/her did a good job. What do you think? It is more concise than some of mine ...

Flash fiction is a form of extremely short story writing characterized by its brevity and conciseness. It aims to tell a complete narrative or capture a moment in just a 1,000 words or even fewer. While there are no strict rules for structuring flash fiction, it typically follows a condensed structure that includes the following elements:

Opening/Hook: Flash fiction usually begins with a strong opening line or hook that grabs the reader's attention and sets the tone for the story. This opening may introduce a conflict, raise a question, or establish the setting or characters.

Conflict/Action: Since flash fiction aims to tell a story in a limited word count, it often focuses on a single conflict or action. This conflict can be external (e.g., a physical confrontation) or internal (e.g., a character's emotional struggle).

Characters: Flash fiction often features a limited number of characters due to the constraints of the form. These characters may be fully developed or presented in a more impressionistic manner. Their motivations, relationships, or conflicts are usually explored within the limited space.

Plot/Development: Flash fiction typically has a condensed plot that progresses swiftly. It may present a complete story arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end, or it can capture a moment or scene without a traditional resolution. The narrative may unfold through dialogue, action, or a combination of both.

Tension/Resolution: Despite its brevity, flash fiction often includes a sense of tension or conflict that builds throughout the story. This tension may reach its peak near the climax, followed by a resolution or a moment of realization for the characters or readers. The resolution can be open-ended or provide a conclusive ending.

Theme/Impact: Flash fiction often conveys a central theme or message, exploring deeper meanings within its limited space. It aims to leave a lasting impact on the reader despite its brevity. The theme may be conveyed through symbolism, subtext, or the overall emotional tone of the story.

It's important to note that flash fiction allows for experimentation and creative freedom. Due to its brevity, flash fiction often demands concise and vivid language, and it may employ techniques such as implication, suggestion, or omission to convey meaning and engage the reader's imagination. The structure can vary depending on the writer's intent and the specific story being told, allowing for a wide range of styles and approaches.

Go here for a list of flash fiction sites where you can learn more.


"Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category."

So goes one of the popular definitions for flash fiction. Today, flash fiction challenges impose caps as low as six words or 140 characters, while others consider stories as long as a 1500 words to be flash fiction. Some give credit for the flash fiction genre to Ernest Hemingway attributing the following to him: "For Sale, Baby shoes, Never worn." The story regarding Hemingway's contribution is also considered by some as an Urban Legend. They say he wrote it on a dare from someone to write a complete story in one sentence. Whether true or not, it's a wonderful story.

The point is that flash fiction comes in many formats. But one thing's for sure, your story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, regardless of the length. It must tell a complete story.

For the WEP, we've gone with the limit of 1000 words or less, and it's why the challenges will run every other month. This will give you, the writer, time to write, edit, and then publish and link your short story for the edification of your peers, and with prizes awarded.

So how do you get started? Writing prompts. Whether it's a few words, a full sentence, a title, or a picture – the writing prompt is essential to starting the creative juices flowing. Prompts include a sentence, a title, a photograph, or even a list of words that must be used in the piece.

Here at the WEP we'll give a title or phrase as a suggestion such as Spectacular Settings for August, Youthful Frights vs Adult Fears for October, and Holiday Celebrations that are out of this world in December. To learn more about these prompts just click the link titled Upcoming-Challenges for 2015.

While it's considered a challenge to write with such brevity, I consider it training. As a wordy writer, I can write a sentence as long as 40 + words. I enjoy flash fiction because it's an opportunity to write, edit, and publish a masterpiece quickly. You achieve a goal – a completed story, and then you have an opportunity for immediate feedback – especially when you post on your blog and link to others participating in the same challenge. You also learn the craft from reading what others have done.

Brevity in writing is a good thing especially if you want your story ready for publication in a magazine or want to enter a competition. Word limits are imposed because of space limitations. I've used several of my flash fiction stories as a jumping off place for entries to the WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Challenges, and recently won Honorable Mention (placed in the top twenty out of a possible 300 entries). WOW Judges are a tough lot, besides a 750-word limit and a complete story, editing is crucial – they accept only perfection when it comes to grammar. Their challenges run quarterly, but cash prizes are awarded.

The WEP is your opportunity to get your work in front of an audience, receive constructive feedback, and then enter it into a cash challenge or send it for submission to a magazine. The Copyright for any challenge posted for the WEP stay with the author.

For those familiar with Flash Fiction Challenges and want more places to share your craft or for those interested in learning more about the genre, here are a few sites for other Flash Fiction competitions – as you'll see the requirements for length varies considerably.

What do you think? Are writing prompts helpful? Have you entered any of your work from the WEP into a contest, or to a magazine? Do you think Ernest Hemingway can be credited with the father of Flash Fiction and the Six Word Story?

Don't forget to share the Challenge
Tweet one of these:

Did you know Ernest Hemingway is credited for the Flash Fiction craze? @DeniseCCovey  @YolandaRenee http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2015/07/wep-what-and-why-flash-fiction.html #WEPFF

Would you like your work read in a magazine? Test it out with the WEP @DeniseCCovey @YolandaRenee http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2015/07/wep-what-and-why-flash-fiction.html #WEPFF

Work out the writing kinks through Flash Fiction Challenges and the WEP @DeniseCCovery @YolandaRenee http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2015/07/wep-what-and-why-flash-fiction.html #WEPFF


  1. Thanks for dissecting the quote, it seems to make much more sense.

  2. It seems I'm on the right track, I hope I can do well. The result was something I did and was doing to implement it.


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