Flashnano Pep Talk/Writing Flash Fiction: What You Don’t Say Is The Story

In the month of November, in solidarity with our Nanowrimo friends, we’ll attempt to write 30 flash fiction stories in 30 days.

So you’re going to try your hand at this flash fiction thing, huh?

In the beginning you will still very often land closer to the 1,000-word cut-off mark, trimming and pruning to make sure your story makes it into the official flash fiction guidelines. As you become more comfortable with the form you will find that your stories naturally shrink and start to land well beneath the 1,000-word mark.

What happens in between is a process of letting go.

Boy-Jumping-From-a-Plane-with-an-Umbrella-76482First of all, let go of being good at it. Whether you come from poetry, longer fiction or nonfiction, it takes a while to get used to the new form. So let go of the need to be an instant expert. So many of us find it frustrating to “start over” and embrace being a beginner in a new genre. I invite you to instead see it as an opportunity.

Let go of exposition. We have become fond of our exposition techniques, our lush, sardonic, witty, poignant, clever, or otherwise expository voices. This is often the first thing to let go of in flash. It doesn’t mean you must let go of it altogether, but your urgent storytelling voice must trump your love of exposition for the magic to happen.

Let go of description. Not all together, but let your description come only in service of your storytelling. Let go of the urge to linger. In flash fiction, one well-placed detail brings an entire story into focus. Opt for one or two telling details over a wash of description—you just don’t have that kind of time.

Let your silences become informative. Don’t rush to fill them. As we learn to let go of exposition and description, we learn to embrace silence as a tool, and the juxtaposition of silences to infer information.

Let go of extra words. Try removing words and see if you can create potent gaps of intuition. See how much you can not say. Often what you don’t say is the story.

So what’s left you ask?

What’s left is tightly crafted little nugget of concentrated gold.

What’s left is flash fiction.

~Nancy Stohlman

Check here for daily Flashnano Prompts during November.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gloria Garfunkel
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 18:55:36

    I was planning to do the novel word count in three flash fictions a day, but I don’t think I have the stamina. I once did 100 flashes in 100 days and that worked out well. I like this suggestion. It’s doable without making me crazy. I’ll aim for one a day and more when I feel like it. I think this is great for us non-novel writers to get support.

  2. Anonymous
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 20:30:36

    Yeah! And you’re right–really the goal here is to get the juices flowing. Last year I sometimes wrote 2 or 3 a day, then some days I didn’t finish even one. It all balances at the end of the month…

  3. sandradan1
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 08:43:27

    Great advice, some published novels should follow your tips! SD

  4. helena mallett
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 06:43:17

    This is great. I shall write varying lengths of stories as i do in my next book so they may be anything from one sentence to a 1000 words. At first i felt daunted by this but i’m now hoping that this will inspire my final stories. Thank you!

  5. Kylie
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 16:58:33

    That sounds fun! I love writing flash fiction. I’m doing NaBloPoMo and will include some flash fiction, but not every day. I’ll have to check out the prompts. Thanks for giving us the heads up!

  6. Sharmishtha Basu
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 10:45:31

    I will love to join any such flash fiction month you hold in future.

  7. nancystohlman
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 18:19:24

    Yeah!!

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