less than 100 words

Flash fiction is defined as a complete story told within a limited number of words.  It is characterized by its extreme brevity and economy. Though there is no universally accepted word limit, generally it is restricted to less than 2,000 words – some say between 250 and 1,000 words and some say no more than 75 to 100 words.

By contrast, “traditional” short stories range from 2,000 words to upwards of 20,000, and are mainly between 3,000 and 10,000 words long

Keeping to a length of 100 words or less, write about how your character felt when they discovered they were lied to.

Here is mine: 88 words

He’s a liar. She walks out into the frigid night, her shallow exhales making ice clouds in his driveway. She read somewhere that extreme cold causes shortness of breath.

If she goes back in she knows what happens next. “Only you,” he will say into her hair, breathing whiskey. 80 proof. “Don’t leave me.”

She gets into her car and turns the key. The world should be a different color, or reconfigure, or disintegrate.

“I’m never leaving you again,” she says, her words tangible and true. Winter’s gift.


Now it’s your turn.

Keep in mind that Flash fiction contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. Unlike a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten, that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline. Flash fiction is usually a story of a single act, sometimes the culmination of several unwritten events.

Start by giving yourself at least10 minutes to write freely – think about your character, and how they felt when they discovered they were lied to.  Don’t limit your thoughts or words, just keep writing – don’t let the editor in you prevent you from generating material.

Once you have completed your free-writing, you can begin to edit creatively – first, identify the story you want to tell and tell it in as many words as you feel you need. You may reorganize what you wrote, you may add or subtract words and phrases. Keep going until you feel you’ve told the story.

Next, do a word count and begin the process of eliminating unnecessary words – this is a wonderful way to discover what is absolutely necessary to say – and what can be left unsaid, but implied.  As you work to reduce the number of words you will find that you can become very creative about making every word count – you’ll discover how to make words and phrases carry more than one meaning. Before you know it you’ll be under 100 words.

Another option with flash fiction is to take something you have previously written and challenge yourself to reduce it to under 100 words.  You will be surprised at how much more powerful your writing can become as you teach yourself to make every word count. You may find that you like the short version better than the original.

When you have completed your Flash Fiction exercise feel free to post it in the space provided below.

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