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What is Flash?

Flash is prose that is typically 1,000 words or less. The craft of writing flash shares many techniques with writing poetry, including a focus on language, imagery, and resonance.

You can write a flash piece based on a life experience, create a fictional story, or write a combination of both. Flash covers all genres and experimentation is encouraged!

But like all craft, there's no silver bullet, no easy roadmap. A lot of writing and refining flash involves trial and error. How do we edit ourselves to turn out successful stories that are four pages or less? How doe we choose what to focus on? What drives story in this pared down form? While you may have heard the saying, “the devil is in the details,” I think the same kind of approach could be applied to short shorts: “the devil is in the decisions.” We need to make decisions about what will be in the forefront of your story, and be consistent. While you will use some of the same approaches and techniques you’d use with the longer form, we've tried to highlight four key tenets of the short short.

  • First, just sit down and tell your story. In the revision state, decide what is holding your story together. But when you’re polishing it, think about what’s allowing it to be told in so few words—voice, setting, imagery?

  • The conflict must be laid out immediately—on the first page, maybe in the first sentence.

  • “The devil is in the details.” When covering longer periods of time, zoom in on specific moments.

  • Endings must resonate and linger in uncertainty. Don't tie everything up; don't add a twist. Follow your intuition and keep revising until you write a last line that feels true to the essence of the story or essay.

  • Appropriation of forms. Experiment with poetic prose or false documents like menus, how-to-manuals, scientific experiments, or any type of prose you encounter throughout your day.

A few flash masters to study:

Come play around with flash with Christine Kalafus on Tuesday mornings, beginning March 21 in her Flash: Fiction & Nonfiction workshop.

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