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What is Flash Fiction?

All of you know what fiction is, but do you know anything about flash fiction? To give you some idea of what it is here’s a list of other names you may know it by:

  • postcard fiction
  • minute fiction
  • furious fiction
  • quick fiction
  • fast fiction
  • micro fiction
  • sudden fiction
  • short-short stories


The Chinese call them palm-sized, pocket-size, little short story, minute-long or smoke-long stories, indicating, as the name suggests, that it lasts only as long as it takes to smoke a cigarette.

Getting the idea?

Some of you may also think flash fiction is a new phenomenon but you’d be wrong. It has been around since the time of Aesop’s Fables and has been practised by the likes of Franz Kafka, HP Lovecraft and Anton Chekov.

So, by now I assume you’ve guessed that flash fiction is short. But remember, it should also contain all the usual elements of a short story – a protagonist, obstacles, complications or conflict and a resolution. However, lots of what is going on in the story can and should only be implied as the word count will limit what you include. Here’s a very famous example, allegedly penned by Ernest Hemmingway to settle a bar bet.

“For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn”

These six words convey so much. We know the protagonist by imagining the parent who has lost their child, we see the conflict i.e. their pain – even though it is not explicitly expressed. And we also know the resolution i.e. what coping mechanism they are employing to deal with their pain – namely selling items that remind them of the lost child. All the elements of a story are either explicit or implied.

If you'd like to write fiction, send for details about our Fiction Writing Course or our Novel and Short Story Writing Course.


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Alice Vinten Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2020

“All I knew when I joined up with The Writers Bureau is that I'd always wanted to write and never had the nerve to start. I've been an avid reader from an early age, and 'being a published writer' seemed like an unobtainable dream. The Writers Bureau opened my eyes to possibilities that I'd never considered before - writing for magazines, pitching for non-fiction books, and researching the writing industry. On the 18th April 2019, my memoir On the Line - Life and Death in the Metropolitan Police was published in paperback by Two Roads Books.”

Alice Vinten - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2020

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