Why Is Flash Fiction So Hard to Write?
I’ve always had a fascination with flash fiction. For those who don’t know, flash fiction is generally accepted to be under 1,000 words. There’s also micro fiction, which can be just a sentence or even just six words. The best example of one of these I have ever run across is the famous:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
It tells a whole story in just six words.
When I decided to launch the first annual Queer Sci Fi flash fiction contest in 2014, I decided I couldn’t be that heartless to the submitting authors, so I went with a generous 300 words. This works out to about a page an a half in a printed book, on average.
You’re probably thinking “Pffft… 300 words. That’s easy!” And it’s true. Writing 300 words is easy. But jamming a whole story into a page and a half? That’s a task so daunting many writers won’t even attempt it.
We received 172 entries this year, and there were some really good stories in there. But there were also a few common errors:
A scene is not a story. A number of writers turned in very nice 300 word scenes. But there was no beginning, middle and end. No dramatic tension fulfilled by the final line. A nice scene does not a story make.
A compelling idea is a must: Some of the stories were a little on the pedestrian side. To make a truly successful piece of flash fiction, it has to grab you, and leave you with something you won’t forget – just like any piece of fiction. Look at the six word story above. It always makes me sad when I read it. What happened to the baby? How must the parents be feeling? Grab me up front and don’t let me go. The winner this year did just that, giving us a beautiful, wistful story that I still remember with fondness.
Remember the Word Count: You only have 300 words to grab me by the lapels and rock my world. Don’t use scene breaks. Every word should have a place and a reason for being there. Many of our authors start at 500 or 600 words and then meticulously edit down to the shining core of the story, which can take days.
Play on the Theme: This year’s theme was “Flight. And we got a lot of angel stories. Probably close to a third of them were some variation of angel or flying savior. So the ones who took the time to come up with a clearly original take on the theme stood out.
Writing flash fiction is hard. If you plan to attempt it, read some samples first to see how other people have tackled it. You can read the winners of all three years HERE.
We hope you try your luck with our next contest in April, 2017!
About the Book
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover & Illustrations Artist: Mila May
Length: 33.6 K
Format: ebook, print
Release Date: General release 9/21/16
*Book contains 5 illustrations inside.
Goodreads || Goodreads Series Page
Blurb: A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.
Queer Sci Fi’s Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. “Flight” leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.
Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.
Smoke by Zev de Valera
He rubbed his temples and squinted at the soft light of his surroundings through the fans of his thick eyelashes. The last drink had been a mistake.
Was that a shaker he’d felt, or the onset of a hangover?
He clutched a silken pillow and waited.
Suddenly, he felt his home tremble; a few pieces of glass
and ceramic ware teetered and then fell to their demise.
Shit. This is the real thing.
With an effort, he hauled himself from his bed.
How many years had it been since the last one?
The shaking ceased, and he looked around his small dwelling. A model unit when he’d purchased it. Now filled with the result of years of collecting: a gramophone, a first generation television set, a water clock. And much more. All of it all had sentimental value—as did the photos of the various men that sat atop or alongside the items in his collection. Some of these men had loved him. All of them had once owned him. Now he owned their memories. That was the bargain.
Another shake. Followed by several unnerving tilts. He willed his cherished possessions to remain in place and willed himself into sobriety and a more becoming appearance as he prepared himself for work.
What to wear?
He selected a red brocade tunic and pants. A classic look always worked best for the initial consultation.
A resounding thud.
He peered up into the small shaftway at the center of the ceiling.
Then a small circle of light at the end of the shaft.
He sighed, folded his arms, and transformed into a cloud of red smoke.
Up and away to meet his new master.
About the Queer SciFi Flash Fiction Contest
In the first year of the Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction contest, we received about 15 entries for the theme “Endings”. In the second year, it was 115 for “Discovery”.
This year, we had more than 170 entries from people around the world, and from all parts of the LGBTIQA rainbow. Flight represents 110 of those people and their stories.