Whortleberry Press
Forty Flashes

Flash Fiction in 500 Words or Less

Ok, as the AE on the upcoming Flash Fiction collection I want to give you guys an idea of what I’m looking for. Why? Cause I want you to get into the collection.

First, let’s define Flash Fiction. Short answer is they’re really short stories. Our limit is 500 words. I’ve seen places use 100 words. Hard? Yeah. But according to legend Earnest Hemingway wrote a novel using only six words. It was to win a bar bet and this is what he wrote:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
The losers paid up.

Now, some of you may be asking how can six words make a story – let alone a novel?

Well, forget the novel part because you can argue that length defines a novel but let’s examine the story part. Those six words do, and have, what every story is supposed to do and have. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It creates tension and interest by intriguing the reader with a question. It answers that question with an ending that surprises us and leaves us feeling something.

Don’t see it? Let’s break it down.

The Beginning -- “For sale:” Those two words put us at the start of the action. Someone is selling something. And it causes us to ask a question: What’s for sale?

The Middle – “baby shoes,” Those two words answer the question of: What’s for sale? But they also raise a new question. Why is the author selling baby shoes? This new question creates a bit of tension as we await the answer.

The End – “never worn.” We now have the answer to the first and second questions. We also know what has happened in this person’s life and it surprises us and leaves us feeling sad. We are also left with plenty of new questions but this story has done its job by answering the one question it actually raised – What is the author selling?

And that’s the trick – telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end with as few words as possible while still intriguing the reader enough that they care about what happens.

Now, I’m NOT suggesting that everyone write 6-word novels. In fact, I’ll be rather disappointed if you do. Hemingway was trying to win a bet. Only a bunch of drunk writers would look at his 6-word novel and accept it.

What I want YOU to do is to write a short story in under 500 words that your mother would enjoy. Why? Because your mom probably doesn’t know anything about the craft of writing but she does know what she likes. So, if you write a story she’ll enjoy, you’ve done your job.

So, a beginning, a middle, and an end -- intrigue, surprise, and caring. Give me that in 500 words or less and you’re in!
Easy. J

(By the way, this essay, 477 words.)


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