Start writing flash fiction

Person writing in a notebook with a mug beside them

Person writing in a notebook with a mug beside them
Writing your own short stories is enjoyable

Flash fiction is a piece of fiction, usually under 1200 words. There are different definitions of flash fiction. Some writing contests may ask for a piece of flash fiction as short as 50 words. Others may use different word counts to define the term. For the purposes of this article, the definition is under 1200 words but if you are entering a competition then you should always pay close attention to the terms and conditions and make sure that you have written your story using the correct amount of words.

Can you tell a full story, with beginning, middle and end, with only a few words?

Yes, you can. It takes careful choices of words. Every word counts and must do its job within the story but it is possible to tell effective stories with only a few words.

So, using only a few words limits the number of characters in your story. You need a main character or protagonist, who will have a problem to solve. Solving that problem will form the backbone of the story. Minor characters may appear in the story but they will always have a part to play in either helping or hindering the main character solve their problem. 


Use character names that start with a different letter to avoid confusing your audience. Avoid names that sound the same, too.


Fred and Amber

Charlie and Sue

Maddie and Steve

are fine choices of names to use for your characters.


Fred and Teddy

Charlie and Julie

Maddie and Freddie

are character names that will confuse the reader and may mean that they are distracted from the story.

TOP TIP: Make a list of your favourite baby names, both boys and girls. Keep the lists handy for when you have story characters to name, then you can choose the best names for your character(s).

TOP TIP: Always say the names together out loud, before using them in a story, making sure that there are no names too similar.

The problem (for your main character)

What is the problem that the main character must solve? It can not be too small or the reader will not care whether or not the character solves the problem. The problem can be one that has just happened:

  • an unexpected letter means the main character must move far away from family and friends
  • someone close to you goes missing
  • a child has bullies waiting around for them at school

or it can be a long-standing problem:

  • problem with an overbearing boss at work
  • death of a parent leading to commitment issues
  • long-standing feud between friends or siblings

You don’t necessarily need to know how the character is going to solve the problem at this stage. You can choose to use real life situations as a start. Bear in mind that what happened in real life is not necessarily what will happen in the story. 

Decide how the story is going to start and what changes to bring the problem to the fore. You might have an idea at this stage about the ending of the story, however you might not. That’s OK.


Start writing the story

The main character should change or grow while solving their problem. They may learn something or they might rediscover something. They should care about the problem – it should matter to them. Minor characters may help or hinder them but it remains their story.

At this stage, I just get my story down. I am not aiming for a perfect story, but a first draft. Write until the story is told. You might find that the ending comes to you while writing the story or you might take a few days of writing or thinking before you find a suitable ending. The ending happens when the problem is solved.

Put the story away for a few days. When you next pick it up, you will have a fresh pair of eyes to read it through and begin to edit it. More tips on editing next time.


To summarise:

  • your story should have a main character who has a problem to solve
  • minor characters can help the story along
  • the shorter the story, the less characters there should be
  • by the end of the story, the main character should have solved their problem in a satisfactory way
  • there should be growth or change in the main character from the beginning to the end


Have you tried writing your own short story? Let me know in the comments below.


Verified by MonsterInsights