What makes for good Flash Fiction?

Well, at least I know why I didn’t win, place or show. My piece didn’t include any of the 5 elements that are offered as criteria for good flash fiction. Here they are:

1. An Opener that Grabs
2. Economy of Words
3. Rich Use of Language
4. A Seamless Mix of Narrative and Dialogue
5. An End with a Twist

I'm putting my comments and thoughts here, since I don't want to clutter up EU with what could be perceived as sour grapes. There's some of that going on in the EU forums, and I don't feel the need to add to it.

I had a twist ending (#5win), but apparently I was lacking in everything else. My piece was a full 1000 words (#2fail), and I had no dialogue at all (#4fail). I thought I was able to tell the story effectively with a complete internal-viewpoint approach, but a story without dialogue is not much of a story apparently. My opening paragraph talked about secrets, manipulations, self-destruction and revenge over one's enemies, but I didn't throw a pie in anyone's face in the very first sentence (#1fail). I also chose to limit my use of language to relatively pedestrian phrasing, so as to give more impact to the flashes of purple prose I used to highlight emotional spikes. Not enough purple? (#3fail)

I have mixed feelings about all of this, because the examples of really great, take-your-breath away writing don't resonate with me at all.

The opening that grabs sounded sophomoric and trite, the rich use of language sounded baroque and overblown.

Maybe I'm just missing the point of flash fiction. I try to write as though I'm seducing the reader. If you do it right, by the time you are really hitting your stride, the object of your seduction is so completely enthralled with you that they wonder how they ever lived without you. More importantly, once they're hooked, they never want to be without you. That kind of seduction takes a little time.

In contrast, it would appear that good flash fiction is less like a seduction leading to an affair and more like an fast hookup with a cheap date. No time for subtlety, just let the FM-red heels announce the intention and let's get on with it?

This isn't the way I write, and I don't think I'll be changing it radically based on this experience. I will try to grow from this, though. I've been told my writing is too slow and plodding. I don't intend to stuff my text into a halter, hot pants and 4" heels in order to make things happen quicker, but I'll see what I can do.


  1. I would've loved to see this on EU, but you are right- it may have been seen as sour grapes. I don't agree with all of the "5 Points That Make Great Flash Fiction". If you read the comments on my story, it wasn't well liked, only 45th in popular vote, but somehow made it to the top 40. *shrug* I thought there were better stories than my own. This was a first for me, flash fiction, and hard. I'm like you, I like to lure the reader in, not grab them by the throat and throttle them.

  2. This is something I'm working on, actually. I don't want people to wander off while I'm still clearing my throat in the first few pages, but I don't want to have a maggot-ridden corpse, a bared breast or a failed marriage in the very first sentence. Seems tacky to me.

    Although, come to think of it, an opening sentence about happy families being all alike seemed to work pretty well for one author. Hmmmm....


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