Flash fiction is quickly becoming one of my favorite formats of creative writing. Interestingly enough, I didn’t even know what it was three years ago. I discovered it through my 2011 creative writing course as a format called the “short short story”, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it.

Lightning strike in the high desert (CC Image by Bo Insogna via Flickr)

Lightning strike in the high desert
(CC Image by Bo Insogna via Flickr)

Short short stories, also known as flash fiction, are stories with less than the typical short story word count, though exactly how much that is depends on the source. From my understanding, a short story consists of at least 1,000 words; anything shorter is considered flash fiction.

As I soon learned, this style of writing was perfectly suited for me, and I’ve been writing more often in this format over the past few years. I haven’t been familiar with flash fiction for too long, so I can’t really go into an extensive lesson about it. What I can do, however, is list the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed my experience with it so far, and why I think others could enjoy it too. So just for fun, here’s a list of five reasons I love flash fiction.

1) Quick to write, quick to read. Who has the time to read long stories these days? OK, a lot of people do, but for those who don’t have that much time on their hands, flash fiction is a great alternative, for readers and writers alike. While a novel may take days to finish and short stories need time to be fully appreciated, several flash fiction stories can be written and/or read in a single sitting, making them the literary equivalent of “snacks” to the longer stories’ “supper”. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe a writer should take any less care with a short short story than with a novel, but when the demand for editing grows exponentially with increasing word count, flash fiction is probably the best place for the less experienced to start.

2) Best of two worlds. When I was introduced to short short stories, I learned that they’re considered a middle ground between poetry and short stories. Since I love both formats, being able to mix them into one has proven an excellent option for me. With the brevity of poetic verse and the structure of short stories, flash fiction encompasses the best of both worlds, and for that, I love it all the more.

3) A challenge for the mind. How do you tell an entire story in so few words? Trying to condense a plot – complete with characters, setting and conflict – is an exercise that I’ve found quite challenging, and it’s really helped me develop my skills as a writer. By challenging writers to cut a story down to the bone, I think flash fiction is great for helping beginners understand the essence of fiction, an essential first step for any aspiring storyteller.

4) Cutting out the “purple”. Another challenge of writing short fiction is having to place significance on every single word of a story. When working with a limit of very few words, there’s no room for unnecessary flowery details. It’s imperative to get straight to the point with only the most basic details, and that makes flash fiction excellent practice for avoiding “purple prose“. Tell a story, period.

5) It’s fun! I think this pretty much says it all. For all the reasons above, I have tons of fun writing flash fiction, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite styles of writing!

What about you? Why do (or don’t) you like flash fiction? Any other points you would add to this list?

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