Fantasy Flash Fiction 101
Could you write a story in 500 words? What about 100?
Flash fiction is a genre that has grown in popularity in recent years. Those committed to it enjoy the challenge of creating a complex story in less than 1000 words—some choosing to stick below 500 or even 100 words total. The key to flash fiction is that the story must be complete, encompassing a beginning, middle, and end, as well as a plot twist at the close. This genre can be both fun and challenging. The writer must create as tight a story as possible, while still evoking the same emotion one would experience from a full-length short story.
The positive point to writing this type of work is that the genre itself fits nicely within the fantasy or sci-fi world, particularly because of the twist ending. However, a writer within the fantasy/sci-fi niche will have a few habits they may need to refine if they want to be successful in this genre.
Setting: With a limited set of words and an entire story to tell, there is typically no room for a descriptive setting. This may be difficult for a fantasy writer. Many publishers will allow a higher word count for a novel in the fantasy/sci-fi genre to leave room for world-building. Unfortunately, flash fiction doesn’t give this extra word allowance. The writer needs to choose the perfect word to describe not only the mood of the scene but what might evoke a physical description of the surroundings to the reader. Instead of giving a detailed description of a broken down house that’s been empty for years, the writer might have to limit himself to simply using the word “dilapidated” knowing that the reader will see the shattered windows and chipped paint in their mind’s eye.
Physical Appearance: Once again, there just aren’t enough words to effectively describe your characters. Forget hair and eye color, or other mundane information that isn’t necessary to the story. Choose a single characteristic that will make the character stand out but will also tell a bit about that character’s personality. “Amelia shrank beneath his stare and pushed her glasses back in place.” In this example, the reader knows Amelia is low in self-confidence but what about those glasses? I would imagine they are part of what makes her self-conscious in the first place. She certainly doesn’t stand out as part of the popular crowd. I didn’t need to know if she was fat or thin, tall or short—she clearly sees herself as plain, which will lead the reader to see her in the same way.
Dialogue: Effective dialogue is another challenge you will face when creating your flash fiction in a fantasy or sci-fi setting. There may be unusual language or phrases you wish to insert, but there will be no extra words to give such an explanation. Once more, take your time to word your story so the reader can understand the intent without having to be told the precise meaning. Dialogue is also an opportunity for the writer to establish setting or physical appearance and still keep that word count tight.
The main thing to remember when writing fantasy/sci-fi flash fiction is to make every single word count. Find one word that can take the place of many. It may sound easy to write a story in 100 words, but I find that I take longer to write a single flash fiction story than I do an entire 2000 word chapter!
Flash fiction is a challenge every writer should undertake to help sharpen their writing skills. It will hone your talent to tell an effective story in a limited number of words and can be a great boost to your creative side!
Laura L. Zimmerman is a homeschooling mom to three daughters, and a doting wife to one husband. Besides writing, she is passionate about loving Jesus, singing, drinking coffee and anything Star Wars. You can connect with her through Facebook and Twitter and at her website, www.lauralzimmerman.com