Why Flash Fiction is Both Tough and Rewarding

Diversity Inspires Creativity by Purple Sherbet Photography
Diversity Inspires Creativity by Purple Sherbet Photography

Last week was my first time in the judge’s seat for Flash! Friday. I had a blast (read my comments on the winners here). It never fails to amaze me how one prompt can generate so many different stories, and it was again a lesson to me about how individual we are and how that translates into our craft.

On the days when familiar fears push their way through my armour to tell me I’m not good enough, I will remind myself that our thought processes, experiences and modes of expression are unique to each of us. If our words don’t make the page, they will be lost. So, writer friends, dig deep and write your beautiful, strange, sad, funny, horrific stories. I’m waiting to read them.

It’s no secret to you by now that I enjoy writing flash fiction, but this week my muse was flighty. It doesn’t matter of course. It’s the showing up that counts. This week though, I found the word limit difficult. Last year’s word counts for Flash! Friday were more generous, hovering at around 300 words. So far this year the word count has been 150. For a girl who prefers meandering to the point, exploring the little avenues of an idea before coming to the core, the new limit is a challenge.

I usually write to a skeletal plan, even for flash, but this week I was tired and pantsed it. What I ended up with was a story I liked but which I had to cut 60 words from. Those 60 words, once gone, meant that my language was so pared down, it had lost its beauty. Some of the ideas I wanted to explore had to exit the story and have become seeds instead for other works.

Flash is tough. It’s a skill that I’m still learning: how to choose ideas that give you just enough meat for the required word count; how to write with emotion but without verbosity; how to leave the reader with a taste of your world, with hardly any words at all.

Here’s that entry I was talking about. Next time it’ll be better.

There’s No Place Like Home (Photo prompt. Include time travel)

By the National Parks Service

‘Andy, come back here!’

We’d spent an idyllic few days in the Croatan National Forest where we had a summer house. Until mom discovered my stash of beer. How else is a fifteen year old supposed to stomach a family holiday?

‘In for a penny, in for a…’ I thought, determined to escape mother’s wrath.

There it was – hidden in the bark of an enormous tree – father’s pride and joy.

‘Time for a spin, old girl. Been waiting a long time for this.’

Mother’s shouts floated on the still air as I climbed into the gleaming chassis. I pulled the lever, watching clouds spin past as the time-machine sped through the vortex to another time and place.

‘Where are we going?’

I turned with a start. George, my six year old brother grinned at me mischievously from the back seat.

‘How on earth?!’

Over the years we took in many sights, but we never made it back to mother.

Friday Phrases

150 words is difficult. Have you tried 140 characters? For those of you new to #FridayPhrases, which was initiated by author @amicgood, the idea is to tweet and retweet stories or poems in 140 characters with the hashtag #FP. Here are some of mine over the past few weeks. I’ve not written poetry since I was a teenager but tried my hand at verse this week.


She undressed on her way to the bath, leaving a trail of clothes for him to find. He’d had a hard day but she knew how to make it better #FP

He lived for Christmas. He was the queen of the panto. Out on that stage in his frilly dress he felt their adoration and it lifted him #FP


First her neck twisted then her back snapped & her arms grew leaden. She fled into the woods, only grunts escaping her once beautiful mouth #FP

He sat in silent repose as the winter sun warmed him. Outside the balding Christmas tree lay discarded on the street. New year, new start #FP


Her strait-jacket expelled

Freedom beckoned like a lost lover

Trailing its gentle touch down her arm

Her critics suddenly disarmed #FP

Love at 60

After a lifetime

Of waiting

Was not easy

The walls wore thin


Now they sit

Feet entwined

Loneliness exiled #FP

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