The Difference Between Flash Fiction & Short Stories

For a long time, I had always used the terms short story and flash fiction as though they were one in the same. All I knew was that they were stories that were not long… simple as that. Right?

Of course, this was when I was younger. As I got older and dabbled more in the writing world, I realized how wrong I was. Then again, I wrote a lot on the Fan Fiction website and 100-word stories were called “drabbles.” I thought that was the only difference between flash fiction and short stories. 100 words were drabbles and anything higher was a short story and/or flash fiction because they totally meant the same thing.

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What is a short story?

A short story is exactly as it sounds – it’s a story that’s significantly shorter than a novel or novella. Aside from length, a short story has pretty much everything in common with a novel. It has a fleshed-out plot, well-rounded characters, and a developed setting and theme.

What is a flash fiction?

A flash fiction is essentially the same thing, only the story is told in a couple hundred words or so. It has a well thought out plot and great characters, but they don’t necessarily need to be fully developed. It helps, yes, but I’ve read my fair share of flash fiction where some things were left up to my own imagination and I personally like it that way.

How many words is a short story?

According to Writer’s Digest, a short story is typically 1,500 words to about 30,000 words which is when it crosses over to novella territory. However, I personally have seen some short stories go up to 10- or 15,000 words. If you know of one that’s actually near 30,000 words, let me know. I’m curious. Whenever I write short stories, they typically don’t get longer than 5,000 words or so… unless I’m writing a short story about George and Lilah. Then I can get up to 10,000 or even 15,000 words. Maybe even 20,000 words. I have a lot of fun with those characters.

How many words is a flash fiction?

Since flash fiction is shorter than short stories, flash fiction is considered to be anywhere under 1,500 words. Flash fiction can vary from being 500 words or as low as 100 words. I’m sure you’ve all heard of 6-word stories before. There are a few fairly famous ones. Then again, 6-word stories may be considered micro fiction… if that’s even a real term. I may be making that one up.

Which one should you write?

Both. Flash fiction and short stories are great practice for writing in general – characters, pacing, plot, everything. It helps to challenge yourself into writing a complete story within a certain amount of words. I’ll admit, I sometimes decide to write flash fiction and then it turns into a short story because I get carried away with the current plot I’m building.

If I think about it, my Short Story Sundays should be Flash Fiction Fridays.

Which do you prefer? Do you read and write shorts, flashes, or both? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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All About Flash Fiction

In my opinion, flash fiction is considered a short story. It’s a full tale with fleshed out characters and resolved plot. It’s just super short.

Short stories aren’t easy to write. Neither are novels. Yet, people (myself included on some occasions) say that short stories are “easier” to write than novels because it’s shorter.

Flash fiction, then, must be a piece of cake.

All about flash fiction

What is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a piece of fiction that takes a flash to read.

No, really, it’s very short short story. The typical length of flash fiction stories can be anywhere between 300 words and 1,500 words.

Of course, some people write six-word stories, 100-word drabbles, and so on. As long as it’s pretty short, it’s considered flash fiction.

How do you write flash fiction?

As concise as possible. Write only what matters to the story. Don’t add any filler content, just keep advancing that plot and developing those characters.

Use unique and vivid language to get your point across. Be sure to have a clear ending in mind and figure out how you’re going to get there in 1,000 words or 700 words or 300 words.

Where should you start writing flash fiction?

Explore the flash fiction world first. Read flash fiction stories or even poetry to get a feel for a language. Of course, you’re ultimately writing in your own voice and style, but reading examples doesn’t hurt.

Then, pick up your pen and just write. If you aim for 500 words, just write and see how many you end up with. Then you cut it down just like you would edit your novel.

Writing prompts help come up with ideas and a timer can do wonders if you want to start and finish something as quickly as possible. Can you write 500 words in 10 minutes? Set a timer. If you write more or less, you can add and cut out words after.

Why write flash fiction?

Writing flash fiction can really reel in your writing skills. It tones your writing and teaches you to cut out the filler stuff. Keep what’s only important to the plot and character development.

That, and it’s a fun challenge.

Do you typically write flash fiction? Do you read it often? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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Why Should You Write Short Stories?

We already talked about the when and why I started writing short stories. But what about you?

Pretend you’re back at school and your new English teacher is asking you to write an essay on the first day. (What a jerk, am I right?)

Here’s the question: Do you write short stories? Explain why or why not, then explain why you should write them.

(Because we all know essays have a million parts to them…)

Why should you write short stories?

To put this bluntly, short stories do everything a novel does. The difference is that a short story does it faster and sharper. You may or may not agree with me on that one, but that’s the best I can describe it, and here’s why:

What’s the length?

The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask, but I looked to my good old pal, Writer’s Digest, and, according to them, a short story can be between 1,500-30,000 words, a novella between 30,000-50,000 words, and a novel between 55,000-300,000 words. (Although I do think short stories can go under the 1,500-word mark, then you’ll also enter flash fiction territory.)

[WARNING, MATH AHEAD!]

The difference between the shortest short story and the shortest novel is… let me get out my calculator…

53,500 words.

How long does it take you to write 1,000 words? 10,000 words? 50,000 words? I know on a good day if I focus hard enough, I can write 2,000 words in one hour. That’s a short story.

Keeping that focus, I can write 10,000 words in five hours. That’s another short story.

That focus remaining, I can potentially write 55,000 words in 27 and a half hours. Of course, these 27 and a half hours would stretch into two, three, four, maybe five days.

[MATH IS OVER. YOU CAN BREATHE AGAIN.]

1. Short stories are short

In the amount of time it takes you to write a novel, you can write multiple short stories. This depends on how long the stories are and how long it takes you to write them, of course, but just bear with me.

Still, they’re faster to write, therefore less intimidating to edit. Then off to be submitted it goes!

2. Short stories help you master the basics of writing

Have you ever written a story with a word limit? You can only write 200 words, no more, no less. Yet, you write 239 words. You need to cut out 39 words, but which ones?

Not to mention you have to tighten everything in a shorter amount of time. You don’t have 55,000 words to allow your protagonist to grow. You only have 1,500 to do it and have it be realistic and make sense.

Short stories will help you…

  • Tell your story as efficiently as possible
  • Find our voice in writing – find your style as you write various shorts in different ways. See what works best for you, what you enjoy writing the most
  • Find your genre – we all write multiple genres, but shorts allow us to explore each of them in a shorter amount of time and figure out what we really like

Short stories aren’t a short cut. People grow, therefore their writing grows with them. Just because they write a mystery short story and fall in love with it, doesn’t mean they’re going to write the next Agatha Christie novel. Still, it’s fun to experiment.

3. It gets those creative juices flowing

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten stuck on my novel. Instead of working on it, I found a prompt and then wrote a short story or flash fiction.

I also can’t explain how many of my novel ideas came from short stories I wrote.

In conclusion…

Short stories are just fun to write. They’re experimental with ideas and writing basics and they can really get your name out there sooner rather than later.

I’m still editing my novels, but I have about three short stories that I query to magazines, contests, etc. And I’m working on more.

Why do you write short stories? Do you think short story writing is a good thing? Let me know what you think in the comments below!