Flash fiction contains most of the following elements in every single story:
Brevity — Flash fiction tells a complete story in 1,000 words or less. Sometimes a lot less words. Many markets want stories that are 750, 500, or 100 words long. Some contests, such the annual 55 Fiction contest, require even fewer words. With the surging popularity of Twitter, some writers have now exchanged word counts for 140 characters.
Character — All fiction requires characters, or at least some sort of presence through which the story is told. The reader identifies with the characters in a story. In flash fiction, characters have little time to be developed and described, so you must make the most of your opportunities. Show them in action. Describe the little details that bring the character to life in the reader’s mind.
Surprise Endings — Flash fiction is famous for its twist endings which often surprise or shock the reader. Think of a punch line to a joke as a good example of this.
Rich Language — Flash fiction exists somewhere between the realms of poetry and short story and uses poetic language to weave the tale efficiently. The format is fluid, allowing the writer to experiment and play with words and form.
Change — Even though flash fiction doesn’t have a lot of words, a lot of action is packed into each story. Something has to happen during the course of the story. According to Roberta Allen in Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes:
“A story is a container for change.”
This means that something has to change within course of the story. It can be a physical change to the character, an epiphany that changes the character’s way or thinking, or a change in how the reader perceives that character and/or situation.
What other elements do you find important for powerful flash fiction? Which of these do you find the most important? Please comment below.