Dash with the Flash by Allison Symes

I’m a flash fiction writer with two collections out with Chapeltown Books but I discovered the form by accident.

I hadn’t heard of flash when I began writing seriously. I was happily writing short stories for CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing when the former issued a 100-word challenge. 

My first thought was you must be kidding me, how can you tell a proper story in such a tight word count?  

My second thought was they wouldn’t have issued the challenge if it was impossible. Try it. 

I went with my second thought! Mind you, this is the writing accident to have, isn’t it? Discover a form new to you and be published in it.

What I love about flash is setting characters anywhere and everywhere in genre and time. Pixabay image.

What I love about flash is, due to the restricted word count, it must be character led. Inventing people (or alternative species - I’ve written from a dragon’s viewpoint!) has always been my favourite aspect of storytelling. 

The other great thing about flash is you can set your characters wherever and whenever you want. I’ve written crime flash tales, fantasy ones, ghost stories, and, most recently, some historical fiction based work. I hope to do more of that. British history is a rich field to mine for ideas. There are always the “bit part players” you might want to find out more about and weave stories for them. You can also invent your own!

I also love meeting the challenge of writing flash to differing word counts. Between 100 and 500 words seems to be my natural home. Pixabay image.

I mentioned Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time was a life changing book.  I loved the crossing of the crime/historical fiction genres here and I still have a soft spot for stories like this. Okay, my one blind spot here is the mash up between zombie books and Jane Austen. I just don’t get that. (And I am certain Miss Austen wouldn’t either!).  

But again for flash writing I can mix the genres (and there is a case to be made this kind of thing may work better for shorter fiction. Readers don’t have time to become bored. Novelties wear off quickly. It also means the writer can have fun here without becoming bored!). 

So true whether you're reading them, writing them, or doing both. Pixabay image.

Is it harder to write short fiction as opposed to the longer kinds? 

Err…it is comparing two different things which have varying challenges. I don’t think a comparison can be made simply due to that. 

But the short form is addictive. I started aiming for 100 word stories, then I tried 50, then had a go at the Ernest Hemingway special (the six worders), but now I vary between 100 and 500 most of the time. 

I tell myself I can stop at any time I want to but I know I won’t.

Maybe I should form a Flash Fiction Writing Addicts Anonymous or something. 

If I send a note for help, please be assured it will be well under 500 words! It would be fitting…   


My cry for help note, should I write one, won't be as beautifully produced as this! Pixabay image.


Eden Baylee said…
Hi Allison, I'm a huge fan of flash and was part of a 100-word flash group at one time too. I do love the short format. It's easier for me than writing a full length novel, but it should not be shortchanged.

It's difficult to do flash well. A good piece has a beginning, middle, end -- introduction, conflict, climax, resolution. So few flash pieces incorporate any, much less all of these elements, so it's a challenge and if you're writing them well ... I think you should definitely keep doing them!

Jan Needle said…
I'm a flash fiction virgin but I find the concept fascinating. Where do I get to read some please?
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Eden. I find the form addictive and huge fun. I would like to explore novellas in flash at some point.
Allison Symes said…
Hello, Jan. I would recommend checking out Chapeltown Books as they specialise in single author flash collections, including mine. I would also recommend looking up the Bath Flash Award - see https://bathflashfictionaward.com/category/winners/ - they have published some winning entries here. And in looking up a couple of places for you to explore, Jan, I've found a site which I plan to be taking a closer look at myself! See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/

A quick Google search will throw up a lot of flash related sites. Many of the competitions will publish their winning entries or extracts from them so well worth taking some time to have an explore here.

I am delightered there are more markets and competitions out now for flash. (Oh and there's the Fish Award, The Bridport Prize etc, all have flash as a category and again may show highlights of previous winners. You'd certainly be able to buy anthologies from them).

Happy reading!
Peter Leyland said…
Great to hear about your success with Flash Fiction Allison. This time last year I wrote a piece about it on this blog having just discovered the work of Hannah Storm and Bronwen Griffiths amongst many others. I don't write any myself but see it as a vibrant new fictional form which I can use in my Literature teaching. Good luck in all the competitions out there.
Jan Needle said…
Thanks for all that, Allison. I'll be following it up!
Bill Kirton said…
I agree with the others, Allison, it's a fascinating and challenging form. Along with several others, I contributed many years ago to a now defunct site called Rammenas, run by Dutch writer, Anneke Klein. It taught me an awful lot about how to compress material in a way that, paradoxically, heightened rather than reduced its impact. Congratulations on your success. I'm sure the more you experiment with the genre, the more pleasure you'll get from it.
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Peter. I also believe technology has helped fuel the growth in flash fiction. We all read on phones, tablets etc now in a way we didn't only 10 years ago. It is also my hope that flash may be a way in for reading for reluctant readers who don't want to take on too much at a time. Once you've hooked them on reading though, who knows where they'll go from there?
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Bill. It is interesting that restrictions, such as word count, can help fuel creativity rather than limit it. I've found I've had to learn to think laterally to make the most of my word count limit. That in turn has led to interesting story ideas I would not have come up with any other way.

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