Finished in a Flash: Five Quick Tips to Writing Flash Fiction - Uncharted

Finished in a Flash: Five Quick Tips to Writing Flash Fiction

By Uncharted

by Caitlin Taylor So

Flash, micro, brief, or sudden fiction are all stories under a strict limit of words. Some writers may find this motivating, while others find it stifling. Regardless, flash fiction pieces must feel—for the most part—finished by the end. Being able to construct a fully fleshed out narrative in such a short amount of time is no easy feat. With the help of these five quick tips, however, writing your next flash fiction should come more naturally.

  1. Start in media res, or in the middle of the action or story.

Getting right to the point or central conflict is crucial. There’s no room for fluff! Hook your reader’s attention as soon as they start reading by throwing them into the action. They’ll have to figure out how the rest unfolds from here. Still, make no mistake: While you may start in the middle of the action, your reader should be able to discern a three-act structure, or a beginning, middle, and end.

  1. Focus on the scene at hand.

Instead of providing an elaborate set up or backstory, focus on the singular scene(s) you have chosen to write about. Who is present? What are they interacting with? Only include the most relevant details and how the scene presented serves to move the story forward. Incorporate imagery, symbolism, metaphors, and other forms of figurative language to get your point across in far more interesting and subtle ways. Use every opportunity at your disposal to further develop the story, especially the title. Your title isn’t included in the word count, so make it count! Instead of being vague, the title should let the reader know what they’re getting themselves into.

  1. Limit to one or two, maybe three characters.

When you don’t have many words to work with, consider limiting your cast of characters to one or two (three if absolutely necessary). They may even remain unnamed. Think about why your reader should care about these characters. The characters’ actions and dialogue will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. If your flash fiction is told in the first person, your character’s thoughts and narration will reveal much of their personality and interiority. 

  1. Trust your reader’s ability to fill in the blanks.

In flash fiction, you don’t have the luxury of spelling everything out for the reader. The best flash fiction offers just enough hints for the reader to figure out the bigger picture. Your reader can read your piece over and over again to discover something new each time. Flash fiction can also lend itself to many different interpretations or implications.

  1. Leave a lasting impression.

Many flash fiction pieces contain some sort of surprise or twist that stays with the reader long after the story is over. The best flash fiction lingers. Ending on a different emotional note than the one you started with is vital. In fact, many flash fiction writers start thinking about the ending first and work their way backwards. Subvert your readers’ expectations and leave them wanting more.


Born and raised in Queens, Caitlin Taylor So is a Chinese-Vietnamese writer who is passionate about prioritizing and amplifying marginalized voices. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in publishing and marketing. Her writing can be found on Business InsiderPopSugarWebMD, and Her Campus Media.