I promise this is not going to sound like a lecture. I hope at least.
For those that don’t know what flash fiction writing is, here’s a little explanation:
Flash fiction writing is about just taking a quick idea and seeing what it sparks. It’s to write a couple hundred words or so on a random prompt and just see what you can come up with. Sometimes there is a word limit, other times there isn’t, but it is never enough to consider a short story really. It’s an exercise to expand your skills in writing.
Take something random, like say three words that have no relation, then try to weave them into a quick tale. The words may not even be something you’d normally use. Maybe yarn, the sun, and a Goddess. Find a way to make a brief tale of those things. Or it could a simple question or topic. Say hands for instance.
It’s a quick prompt to test your skills of writing. Can you write a brief tale within a word limit of a couple hundred? Can you weave three random words together into one? Can you use an image or a question for another one?
That’s all flash fiction is, to get the creative juices flowing and learn to discipline yourself as a writer.
How does this help you?
It can help in many ways.
For instance, if you’re like me and do not know the meaning to short and sweet, a word limit on a flash fiction challenge can force you to write a concise tale without babbling in the minor details or beating around the bush. It helps you become more focused and to the point. Sometimes the shorter the tale, the bigger punch it can hold, if taken time to work at.
Another way it can help is just by getting the creativity flowing again. Say you’re stuck with writer’s block on your current WiP, getting absolutely nowhere. You could take a quick break, step back away from it, and go try your hand at a quick flash fiction to see if it makes your characters jealous enough to talk to you again. And you never know, it could even spark a whole new idea or even fix something you have a plot hole in.
Flash fiction can also allow you to expand your horizons. Try your hand at a different genre for a moment, or a different idea you normally wouldn’t do. It could allow you to take an idea that’s been nagging at you and play around with it a bit as well, see where it takes you. Even a chance to write a scene that is nowhere near where you’re at in your WiP.
One other thing flash fiction can help with is becoming consistent. If you find a challenge set every week, make yourself sit down and try it. It will help you get in a rhythm that you can hold yourself accountable to. (Especially if you tell yourself it’s becoming a new blog post day like I have with my Wednesday posts.)
By taking part in these challenges, you stretch your writing skills and test your strengths and weaknesses. It can help you to grow to become a better writer, in more ways than one.
At least, this is what I have come to learn as I started to partake in flash fiction challenges. I only began doing them this year in January, and anyone that follows my blog sees the Wednesday posts going up with my hand at flash fiction that week. By holding myself to posting them to my blog and Wattpad, I hold myself accountable to make sure I stick to a pattern of doing them. By doing them, I try my hand at a prompt I never would have come up with and an idea that never would have sparked. I also learn to try to keep things shorter, to broaden my topics a little bit because we all have those go to genres of ours that we are most comfortable in.
Really, flash fiction has many benefits and is definitely worth the try in my books. It can be fun. Sometimes you don’t have to follow the prompt exactly, let your imagination run a little, and sometimes you can hit right on it. It’s all a practice.
So would you like to give it a try?
If you do, here’s two shout-outs to two authors I know that host a flash fiction prompt each week.
The first, a good friend of mine, is P.T. Wyant. Every Wednesday she hosts her Wednesday Words prompt for the week for flash fiction, and that is where I get my prompts from for my posts. Her prompts vary from pictures, to word groupings, to lines to incorporate in the story, to a question, to really whatever sparks her fancy. Which is great, it gives you even a variety. She doesn’t specify a word limit either, so let your imagination run wild for as much or as little as you can manage.
The second shout-out is going to another fellow author I know from the Snippet Sunday group, Siobhan Muir. I only recently became drawn to her flash fiction challenge hosted every Thursday called #ThursThreads. But her challenges are a little bit different from Wyant’s. For hers, you are left using a line from the last week’s winner’s entry in the challenge to incorporate in your own entry for that week. And you also have a 250 word limit — which can help you practice short and sweet if you’re like me. Her challenges are judged by fellow authors that participate in the challenge, and at times there might even be surprises thrown in the challenge. You have the chance to be a winner or get an honorable mention also if your story strikes deep in the judge. Her challenge is very interactive among those that try.
While I have been doing the Wednesday Words prompts since the second week of January, only last week did I finally try my hand at Muir’s Thursday Thread Challenge. It was the 4th Anniversary of her challenges so it was a special one that even offered prizes to the winners and honorable mentions.
So I figured I’d give it a shot for once, try my hand a being short and sweet for once. Oddly enough, I managed it at the first go with 205 words — maybe because I was exhausted at the time and just rattled something out on the prompt when the words struck me. And low and behold, I was met with a surprise when I came home from work the next day to see the announced winners.
Yep, that’s right. I came home to see shout-outs to myself for winning an honorable mention with my entry. My half asleep, dazed and lyrical entry actually won. You can imagine my shock and total excitement, especially seeing this challenge was offering prizes for the Anniversary. But just the fact that I won the mention was enough to send me into all smiles and jumping up and down in excitement. I do not ever win when I go for contests and challenges.
So before I ramble on any further in this post, I will leave it off at those shout-outs and my honorable mention entry for any that wish to read:
We’ve stalked each other for hours. A game of cat and mouse. Ring around the rosy.
I was sure we were simply going in circles, following each other’s never ending trail, never gaining any ground on the other. The same trees, same brushes, same boulders, same blade of grass we continued to pass.
It was endless. Or was it?
The day would soon wane to night, the animals changing tune and switching shifts. Darkness would creep over the land, snuffing the light out. It would be the end of the day, but not the end of our hunting.
Pick a sheltered tree, an abandoned cove, a cover of brush and bed down once more till the crack of dawn and chorus of birds had us once more going in circles.
Would it ever end? If one of us was simply to turn around and back track, would the other as well? Or would we finally run face to face with weapons clashing?
I’m sure we’ve stalked each other for hours in this endless blood feud, days on end even. Will it ever come to pass by blade through heart? Or must we wander in circles round and round till one falls to nature before sword?
And as P.T. just pointed out to me, the point of flash fiction is short and sweet, and this post is in no way short and sweet. Oh the irony… I’ve got a lot to learn yet.