WRITING KNOWHOW What is flash fiction?


Sally Doherty brings us the first in three KnowHow blog posts on writing flash fiction.




Flash fiction is a short piece of writing which differs from a short story. Working on flash can help hone your novel-writing skills. But what is it exactly? And why does it have me hooked? Here are the key elements to flash:

Word count – Flash fiction is generally five hundred words or under. It is often one hundred, two hundred, three hundred or five hundred words.

Content – Although flash is short, it should not be simply a passage or description. It needs a beginning, middle and end, and a story arc.

Layers – The best flash contains layers so the full meaning of the piece may only become apparent on several read-throughs. Layers can be created, for example, through extended metaphors or hints of a character’s backstory.

If you’re thinking of discovering the world of flash, do check out published pieces. Adult flash can be found on websites such as Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Bath Flash Fiction and many more. And if you’re feeling brave, these sites also accept submissions through competitions or online submission windows. There’s much less kidlit flash fiction out there. WriteMentor runs a quarterly two-hundred-word competition and you can read the winning pieces in its magazine. 

Inspiration for flash can be found in the world around you – the quirkier, the better! It provides a great break to novel writing. Plus, it’s much easier to get a feeling of self-achievement when you can write a piece in a day rather than a year. So get those creative juices flowing and I think you’ll soon be as hooked as me.





Sally Doherty lives with her husband and three-legged rescue dog in leafy Surrey. She’s had flash published by Reflex Fiction, Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and Funny Pearls, and has won Retreat West’s micro fiction competition four times. She is also the judge for WriteMentor’s quarterly flash competition.

Primarily, Sally writes middle grade novels. Her debut TOBY AND THE SILVER BLOOD WITCHES was published in July 2021.


Twitter: @Sally_writes

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sallydohertywrites.com

Writing blog: www.sallydohertywrites.com

Author website: www.sallydohertyauthor.com



Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 


Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let me know at knowhow@britishscbwi.org.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

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