I’m addicted to flash fiction. I enjoy the challenge of compacting a story into a thousand words or fewer—and watching other writers do it too! But flash fiction is more than a method for writing quick, poignant stories. It’s an incredibly useful yet overlooked tool for refining your skills in general.
I tend to procrastinate about worldbuilding because it overwhelms me. I’m expected to design an alternate reality that’s as complex and nuanced as my own. Considering the thousands of cultural customs, geographical differences, and historical events attached to every inch of Earth, the task seems too infinite for my finite imagination. Where do I start? How do I determine when to stop? Which ideas should appear in my story, and which should remain archived inside my brain?
Although writing may feel isolating, you’re not stranded alone in a desert that spans from page one to “the end.” As Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, once said, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” All writers go through dry spells, and renewing your love for storytelling is possible. The solution is simple: write even when you’d rather sink into the sand instead of pushing through it, and you’ll stumble upon the oasis you’ve been searching for.
I didn’t mean to let my fingers slip. I had my life gathered in salt-stained glass jars, laced with coffee-grind drifters and blood-thrifted stress. I’m standing in shatters I haven’t swept, lost in sharp seas with no land in sight. Please slow down.
Every moment in every story makes a promise: the conversation, decision, or setting that the author is focusing on holds significance, whether immediately or in a future chapter. As a reader, you’re conditioned to expect even the tiniest details to connect to and advance the plot.
The phenomenon first happened when I was seven years old. Mud caked my pants and the tip of my nose as I stirred an earthy concoction with a stick. “Leaves!” I commanded, my hand outstretched. My friend Lily scurried toward the bushes. Within seconds, she returned and placed the ingredients I’d requested in my palm. Careful not to break the surface of the murky water, I spread out the green embellishments and removed my makeshift utensil. “Soup’s done.”
Have you ever started reading a book you expected to enjoy only for the setting to stymie any connection you might have had with the characters? You keep losing your bearings because of weird place names. The info dumps about the magic system make you zone out. And you can’t even pronounce the religion that’s dividing two people groups. Fifty pages in, you’re still not invested. Disappointed, you toss the story onto your did-not-finish pile, where the memory of it fades into oblivion.