Flash Fiction Writing Exercises

flash fiction writing exercises

Try these flash fiction writing exercises.

These fiction writing exercises are designed to help fiction writers shave away the fluff and reveal the bare bones of a piece of fiction.

We’ll start with one exercise that will help you assess the core structure of a story and then explore a few bonus flash fiction writing exercises that are good for developing concise writing skills.

What is Flash Fiction?

Flash fiction is a short story that is extremely brief. There is no official word limit, but generally, stories with less than 1000-2000 words would fall under the flash category.

Fiction Writing Exercises and Flash Fiction

Many writers have a habit of using gratuitous words and phrases in order to meet a word count, make a piece sound more rhythmic, or enhance descriptive passages. Often, such words hinder a story because they leave less to the reader’s imagination. Other times, there is so much description that the plot and characters get lost in the fray.


Fiction writing exercises like the one below will help you pinpoint areas where excessive wording is creating a problem. In addition, it will peel away the layers of your story, revealing its core. Plus, it’s a very simple exercise and can be completed rather quickly.

Flash Your Fiction

Select a short story you’ve written that is either completed or near completion. Try to choose one that is about ten pages long. You can do this exercise with an entire manuscript, or with a story that is just a couple of pages long, but ten pages is good to start with.

First, save the file with a new name so you don’t lose your original work. Go through the piece removing every single adjective and adverb. Next, remove words, phrases, and sentences that do not move the action of the story forward, especially if they are solely there for description.

Finally, go through the story one last time removing as much as you can without making the piece unintelligible. A traditional example is:

Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back.

Of course, this is an oversimplified example, but it gives you an idea of just how much a story can be broken down into its basic movements.

More Flash Fiction Writing Exercises

If you don’t have any pieces that you feel are appropriate for this exercise, if you want to try something a little different, or if you just want to do more flash fiction writing exercises, here are a few projects you can tackle:

  • Write a piece of flash fiction from scratch and try to keep it under 1000 words. If you really want to push yourself, aim for less than 500 words. It’s harder than it sounds!
  • Instead of rewriting an entire piece, turn a scene or a chapter into a flash fiction story.
  • Turn movies, novels, and other story sources into flash fiction writing exercises. Take the plot from a movie or book that you like and try to write it as a piece of flash fiction.

This exercise can be a lot of fun and it’s extremely eye-opening when you realize just how many unnecessary words we pack into our writing. It’s also interesting to see the skeleton of a story after stripping away its excess.

Are You Up For It?

Have you ever written flash fiction? Do you aim for concise writing? Got any fiction writing exercises of your own to share? Leave a comment, and keep writing.

101 creative writing exercises

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

15 Responses to “Flash Fiction Writing Exercises”

  1. Kelvin Kao says:

    Oh, this reminds me of the “book-a-minute” website where they have super condensed version of novels. Of course, those are meant for a laugh, but you can’t say there’s no truth in the way they summarized the stories.

    http://www.rinkworks.com/bookaminute/classics.shtml

    Kelvin Kaos last blog post..WordGirl: My New Favorite PBS Show

  2. Bobby Revell says:

    Hi Melissa! I used to write some flash fiction, but haven’t in a long time. If I write a story that has a plot (many pieces I write have no plot and use motivic constructs instead), I build it from the skeleton out. I’m not so much a fan of reading flash fiction, but I do write skeleton summaries and story maps (sort of the same thing but not artistic or to be read).

    Some writers are anal about unnecessary words, but I tend to be the opposite and those unnecessary words become central to the prose, mood and expressiveness (in certain types of fiction). I trim something out of everything I write; sometimes it’s the plot itself. If I get the time, I’ll write some flash fiction :smile:

    Bobby Revells last blog post..The Myth of Mental-Spiritual Limitation

    • Hi Bobby! I love flash fiction – especially as a reader. I guess there are no in-betweens for me because I like stories really long or really short. Writing flash is challenging because you have to be concise and that added challenge makes it fun. Now, I haven’t written a piece of flash in quite some time, so maybe I’ll feel differently next time I give it a whirl.

  3. Rebecca Reid says:

    Most of my writing lately has been ultra-short. I’m trying to figure out how to capture a simple scene. As a result, I’m not certain how to flesh a story out. I guess this is a follow-up comment to your last post — blogging makes my writing shorter by default, since that’s how I’ve been writing lately!

    I *love* going through writing and taking out unnecessary words. (I’m an editor. :)

    • Yep, there’s something about blogging that puts limits on one’s attention span. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not but if you want to write more concisely, then blogging will probably help with that!

  4. Melissa,
    I want to master Flash Fiction! I think it is the skill to grow for any blogger.
    “Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back.”
    I am off to try it out! ;)

    Alik Levin | PracticeThis.coms last blog post..Kaizen Parents – GTD Kids

    • Flash is definitely a great way to sharpen one’s writing skills. That’s why I love this exercise (it’s one of my favorites). It’s truly a study that will reveal the raw material of your work and that can be quite eye-opening!

  5. WereBear says:

    Blogging is concision.

    Even if there’s enough ideas to go with a series, each of those posts have to be as tightly written as possible.

    This isn’t the 1800′s, where novels were wordy on purpose. People wanted a big thick book for their money, and even more importantly; they were unused to building word pictures in their heads.

    Novelists were supposed to be wordy; they needed all those words to help people get everything that was going on.

    New medium: Film. Ever wonder why so many old movies had the little plane or train, and the dotted line from here to there? It was a story telling device. Film was new, and people couldn’t follow a simple jump cut.

    Now, no dotted lines; you get the hero or heroine to Paris by jump cutting to them sitting in a cafe with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Modern audiences can follow that; 1930′s audiences could not.

    Now we have people who have grown up reading stories in books, and they can follow “jump cuts” in fiction the way their grandparents could not. A story might not be served the best as flash fiction.

    But the skills one gets by trying to compress; that’s important.

    WereBears last blog post..Cats Who Love Packing Materials

    • Ah, the little dotted line. I’ve heard about this phenomenon before – how audiences needed a little help to understand the film medium in its early days. Now we can’t cut to the next scene fast enough! Everything has to be super short and concise and we’re constantly being told “Get to the point already!” I am not a fan of long, boring scenes, or lengthy passages of description, but I also don’t like things to move too fast. Somewhere in the middle feels about right to me.

  6. Michele says:

    Melissa,

    I haven’t really spent time on fiction lately. I stumbled this post and will make time in the near future to try out your advice here. ;-)

    Oh, and I love that photo!

    *smiles*
    Michele

  7. Carmen Esposito says:

    Hello Melissa,

    I recently discovered your site and it’s great! All the articles and tips are very helpful. I’m very new to blogging and have been working on flash fiction. I recently posted one on my blog called “The Morning Run”. I would love to hear your comments.

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