Notes

WRITING SHORT FICTION

‘A great piece of flash fiction creates a complete world in very few words, draws you in, and makes you complicit.’ 

Vanessa Gebbie

Short Fiction needs to be hard hitting and to the point. Here are some things to think about:

Beginning: The title and opening line need to hook us in. The opening few sentences should set the tone, genre and style of the story; you don’t have time to give us long descriptions of character and setting at the beginning: arrive late: start where something is happening to the character, not with long scene setting and description.

Character: think of a line drawing rather than an oil painting; use your words carefully to etch the characters into their background as economically as possible:

Location: Use the setting to tell us something about the mood and theme of the story and to tell us something about the character.

The Middle (or muddle) is where the conflict happens; it is the bulk of the story:

Conflict is essential in a story; something must happen and it should make a difference. A story is not simply a description of a place or a rant about an issue, even if it is spoken through the mouth of a character!

End: Avoid working towards a ‘punchline’ or ‘gag’. Build the story with the denouement before the end to allow time to reflect and let the ending resonate.

The ending should resonate after the reader has finished reading, contemplating the ideas expressed and bringing their own interpretation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the story is ambiguous – it simply means that the story should give the reader something to think about;

The short fiction genre epitomises the art of leaving space for the reader: for example: 

The most famous short fiction is by Hemmingway and is just six words long:

‘For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ Hemingway

The narrator says nothing at all about the circumstances. He does not tell you anything much. He simply makes a statement and the reader fills in the rest. 

12 Tips for writing 500 word Fiction

  1. Make the title work as part of the word count
  2. Make the opening line a hook to entice the reader in
  3. Create a complete pocket-sized world which intrigues the reader 
  4. Make sure your story has conflict and a purpose
  5. The conflict can be internal or external
  6. Focus on one theme or one element of the story 
  7. A short story is not part of a bigger story, nor is it a synopsis for a novel. 
  8. It shouldn’t have a convoluted plot and avoid time shifts
  9. Avoid too many characters and points of view
  10. The skill is to arrive late and leave early:
  11. Let the reader contribute to the story
  12. Let the last line resonate with the reader so the story lingers beyond its length

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