A great way to fine tune your skills as a fiction writer and as a storyteller is to write flash fiction. Flash fiction is a form of writing that is ultra-short but still has a beginning, middle, and an ending. Various contests or publishers of flash fiction will have different guidelines as to how many words constitutes a flash fiction story but it will almost always be under 1,000 words in length. One of the most beneficial aspects of this form of fiction writing is that it helps you cut down on your excesses and get to the real heart of the story.
Before writing anything you of course need an idea. If you’re a really creative person you might start forming an epic story full of vivid characters and scenery that is so detailed and precise it feels like the reader is actually there. In flash fiction you are going for the same effect on the reader but because you have less space you have to think smaller. For example if your epic took place within some small town, your flash fiction story would involve maybe one person within that town and one event within their lives.
In the first paragraph of your short fiction is the best place to give a limited back story of what is happening and who is involved. A good way to condense it may be for you to write out a longer version first and not worry about the word count and then go back later and whittle it down to proper size. Brevity that still packs a punch is what we are going for so experiment with ways to show what the reader needs to know without telling them explicitly. If you can jump right into the action and show through that action what the back story is that is ideal. You cannot plod along and expect to have an action packed middle and a great ending so make your character get right to work in the story.
The essence of drama is of course conflict. Every story needs a conflict and in flash fiction it should be one that is immediate and also convincing. You may now have a setting and a main character but what does she want? What is it that motivates her through this scene? Is she being chased my an axe-wielding killer or having a tender moment with her lover? You only have maybe 1,000 words to tell your full story so there has to be a set-up followed by the conflict or major action of the story. Due to the limited space you should aim for one major theme or idea that you would like to get across in your story and focus on making that as powerful as you can.
The ending of the story should tie together any loose ends that are leftover from the conflict (which shouldn’t be many). Flash fiction often employs twist endings which can work very well in this medium but is not necessary.
If you want to practice you writing skills it may be useful for you to explore the world of flash fiction. Maybe you can set aside thirty minutes per day and try to write a full story before time is up. Don’t worry about editing or your word count until after you have told your tale with beginning, middle, and end. Once you have it on paper then you can go back and start chopping away at your story and compressing it down to your desired length. After your done editing try sharing it with friends or family or look up some flash fiction contests online and try to win some extra cash. Flash fiction is very fun to try out and can be quite a challenge to tell a story in such little space but the rewards you will reap are very well worth it.