If you’ve ever written a tale that didn’t take much space, it’s possible that it wouldn’t be deemed a short story with its length. When it’s not long enough to be a ‘short story’, a piece that has the usual requirements to be a ‘story’ in general would most likely be deemed ‘flash fiction’.

According to Dictionary.com, flash fiction is defined as “very short works of fiction that are typically no longer than a couple of pages and may be as short as one paragraph.” The term itself was apparently coined in the early 1990s, but examples of it predate modern history- it has existed from the moment storytelling was born.

Examples include Aesop’s fables from thousands of years ago, the “short short stories” as associated with Cosmopolitan in the 1920s, or modern stories you can find online that don’t quite add up to being a ‘short story’, though feel fulfilled all on their own. In a way, it’s basically an umbrella term that can vary in use from publisher to publisher and from writer to writer.  While some writers and publishers would count the six-word-story concept as ‘flash fiction’, others would push that it only fits the category if there’s at least five-hundred but no more than two thousand words.

Because there’s such variety in opinion, the definition itself may not be as helpful as desired when labeling your work. I recommend possibly taking the definition itself with a grain of salt. Like many words, and like writing itself, the term is flexible and easily changed. Instead of focusing on the word count, it might be best to focus on the story itself. If the characters and the story can reach fruition within a thousand words or two, you’ve written yourself a piece of flash fiction. If it’s too long or too short, you can always tweak it to fit the size you need. Use only the critical details and find your way from the beginning to the end of your character’s trials, no matter what they may be. Either way, your story must be told. In the end, calling it ‘flash fiction’ just means it’s quick to read, quick to compel and quick to finish. It may not always be quick to write- but it’s a great endeavor no matter what you’re used to.

Why not give writing flash fiction a try?

It’s Flash Fiction Month in our Writer’s Haven. Join our virtual global community of writers as we motivate each other to write more flash fiction in February! Join here: http://baqm.co/writershaven