(Editor’s Note: This post was first published on 24 July 2014.)
I would like to argue that flash fiction is the art of leaving things out. If this is true, the question becomes, what do you leave out?
Let’s assume that your flash fiction story is between 500 to 800 words long. We can all agree about what you have to put in your story: a protagonist, a situation that creates tension and a resolution (or the hint of a possible resolution) to that tension.
So far so good. But what can you leave out?
You might try leaving out most of the backstory; because you don’t have the room to explain a lot of backstory to the reader. If you did try to explain the entire backstory, you wouldn’t have a flash fiction story. You would have an essay. But if the reader doesn’t know the backstory, the present situation may not make any sense.
That’s where writing flash fiction from the inside out can help.
You want your characters to act out the present situation through what they say and what they do. This will make up the body of your story. This is the action. It is through the action that your characters can reveal enough of the backstory so that the present situation will make perfect sense to the reader. Don’t over do it. But enough of the backstory can be revealed so that the reader will be able to connect the dots.
This means you can leave most of the backstory out. If you think of flash fiction as having the form of the setup, the buildup and the resolution, a little backstory in the setup is all you need to get the narrative ball rolling.
PS This post is not meant to be the only way to write flash fiction. It’s just meant to get you to be conscious of how you write your own flash fiction.
Hello hello hello, all my fans of erotic flash fiction who live all over the world! The Old Soldier just came back from the public library in Oakland. It’s beautiful outside, partly sunny and 70-something degrees. I checked out a book titled: Gatsby, The Cultural History Of The Great American Novel. And I’m still reading my book on Andy Warhol. I think as the editor/publisher of this ezine, I do as much reading now as I did when I was a grad student at Pitt between 2003 to 2006. But I have to read a lot. That’s how I get my ideas. And I love my job.
Keep reading that erotic flash fiction. This is the Old Soldier reporting for the PittsburghFlashFiction, a locally published ezine of commentary, pop culture and sex as art and entertainment.