The 4th annual SCI-FI-LONDON + Urban Fantasist 48 Hour Flash Fiction Challenge starts this Saturday 11th April. You can find a full explanation of all the rules for the challenge (and watch out for the #SFL48FLASH Twitter hashtag) HERE however for those of you less-than familiar with the format, here are 12 top tips for writing flash fiction
(1) Flash Fiction has all the elements of a traditional self-contained short story, including a beginning, a middle and an end, even if some aspects may be implied.
(2) Flash Fiction is NOT an extract or vignette from a longer story and should never end with the words To Be Continued...
(3) The definition of Flash Fiction can vary from competition (or publication) to competition. For example SFL48FLASH specifies a maximum of 1500 words but no minimum. Other publications may set the word length at 1000, 700, 500 or even 250 words of less.
(4) Please pay close attention to any particular rules regarding subject matter. For example with SFL48FLASH, as well as having a science fiction or fantasy-related theme, two clues: the TITLE plus a specific piece of DIALOGUE, must be incorporated somewhere within the story.
(5) Please follow any rules regarding manuscript layout and file formatting.
(6) Comply with any deadlines specified. This is particularly important with SFL48FLASH as the whole point of the challenge is you only have 48 hours, from being provided with the two clues, in which to write and submit your story. Don’t grumble, that works out to a writing rate of around just 30 words an hour!
(7) And, talking of grumbling, when the results are announced, please don’t start arguing with the judges and complaining that your entry should have been better placed. Judges’ decisions are final. Similarly, please don’t ask for a critique of your work - this is a competition, not a creative writing course.
(8) Don’t be Evil. Nobody objects to sex, violence and swear words - as long as they are pertinent to the story and are not being used gratuitously. That means no submissions advocating racial and religious hatred, sexism, child abuse, etc.
(9) Don’t get carried away with the gadgets. Yes, this is sci-fi and fantasy but readers (and judges) still want characters who they can engage with and care about. Don’t make your characters mere caricatures whose only purpose is to operate your gadgets.
(10) Start the action rolling immediately. You do not have the word-length luxury of a novel in which to develop your story so cut to the quick as soon as possible rather than waste time on waffling introductory dialogue.
(11) Avoid a clichéd ending. This is a short story, not a preamble to a punchline which (a) probably isn’t as funny as you think it is and (b) is one the judges will have heard before. “We appear to be the only survivors on this planet. My name’s Adam.” “Oh, hello, my name is Eve!”
(12) Finally, do be original. It goes without saying that you should never copy/plagiarise another writer’s work but you should also strive to come up with new ideas or at least a fresh spin on an established trope. Too often judges encounter stories where the denouement is obvious from the first paragraph. So be bold, make it fresh.
Charles Christian was an English barrister, Reuters correspondent-turned editor, author, blogger, podcaster, award-winning tech journalist, storyteller, and sometime werewolf hunter, who sadly passed away in 2022.
Prior to his sudden death he completed one of his largest works to date: The Witches Almanac, the definitive guide on the history of magic and folklore, including 359 of the most important witches and sorcerers in history.
This site also has links to Charles' books and the Weird Tales Show videos and podcasts.
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