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What Is Flash Fiction?

WD editor Moriah Richard outlines the short short form and answers the question, “What is flash fiction?”

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

You may have heard of this six-word short short story; it’s often attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, though his authorship of the piece has never been confirmed.

Six words. So many emotions.

This is the goal of flash fiction—also referred to as micro-fiction, short short stories, or sudden fiction. Instead of focusing on plot or character development, the writer instead focuses on the narrative’s movement. Every sentence, every word, should reveal something to the reader that we did not know before. It should also hint at a larger backstory than what’s revealed on the page.

While flash fiction has been around for centuries (think of Aesop’s Fables or other collections of folk tales), it has recently garnered a lot of attention from writers and publishers. Despite this, the form itself isn’t well-defined. The general consensus among writers and publishers is that anything between 5 and 1,500 words is flash fiction.

Beyond that, flash fiction is employed by writers of all genres; horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller/suspense, literary, YA, and even romance writers have all produced some excellent work in under 1,500 words.

To help you better understand the form, here are some excellent articles by flash authors on the WD site:

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Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

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Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.