Is flash fiction more challenging to write compared to other forms?
The short answer is that it is in some ways, but it isn’t in other ways. By nature of it being 1,000 words or less, it’s easier to write than, say, a novel because it takes less time. However, it can be much more challenging to cram everything that makes a flash fiction story great into only 1,000 words or less. But, as with all writing craft, practice makes perfect.
What are the important elements of good flash fiction?
At Splickety we always say that above all else, something has to happen. We get lots of stories where characters are just thinking about past events, and they’re all really boring. All flash fiction needs action (as in something happening, not necessarily gunfights and explosions). Flash fiction also needs structure. Each story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end (though the lines between these can be blurred). The beginning needs to hook the reader, the middle should develop the story and further engage the reader, and the end should inspire a strong emotional response within the reader.
Tension and conflict are two essential elements in flash fiction. These things drive the story through the characters’ interactions with other characters, the setting, events, or whatever they come into conflict with. What’s more, those characters need development. They must change (or change everything around them) as a result of that conflict. In summary, flash fiction has everything a novel has, just in smaller quantities.
There seem to be no rules to writing flash fiction. Do you agree/disagree? Why?
I think that the rules are more flexible in flash fiction, for sure, but I believe that the rules that govern the craft of writing apply to flash fiction as well. At Splickety, the main rule is that the story has to be 1,000 words or less, and we’ve found 700 is really the sweet spot for publication. A very close second is what I mentioned above: something has to happen.
What is the starting point of most of your short stories?
I’m a big believer in starting in media res, which is Latin for “in the midst of things,” or as I like to say in the middle of the action (as in, something happening). I believe that the kind of fiction I write is best told (at least by me) while something is going on, and then I can fill my readers in on the backstory later on in the piece, as the story progresses.
How do you manage to create memorable characters in a short story?
That’s part of the challenge of short fiction. You have less time and space to give those characters what they need to be memorable. For me, highlighting the character’s most unique features is a good starting point. If they have an eyepatch, point that out. If they’re an average looking person with brown hair, that’s less interesting, so gloss over it or mention it quickly. I think the character’s voice comes next. Voice is how they talk—what they say, and how they say it. Obviously the more tactful the dialogue is, the more clever they will seem. Finally, I’d say the character’s actions can really impact your readers. If you set them up to believe your character will behave in a certain way and then your character doesn’t, that can make for some great thought-provoking fiction. It will get your reader asking, “Why?”, and sometimes the best answer is “Why not?”
Meet the Author
Ben Wolf founded Splickety Publishing Group (SPG) to meet the needs of busy folks like him: people who appreciate great fiction but lack the time to read. SPG offers three quarterly flash fiction magazines: Splickety (multi-genre), Havok (speculative), and Splickety Love (romance).
Ben’s novel _Blood for Blood_ won the 2015 Cascade Award and is characterized as “bold…with nonstop tension” and “hard to put down.” It asks, “What if a vampire got saved?” His debut children’s book, _I’d Punch a Lion in His Eye for You_, won the 2016 Cascade Award.