150 Words is a Small Sandbox

First, a moment of silence for the lives lost in the attack on the Twin Towers 14 years ago.

I was in elementary school. I still have an irrational fear every time an airplane flies loudly over that it will fall from the sky and smash into my dwelling.




I’ve been wrestling with my entries for Leading Edge Magazine’s flash fiction contest. The word limit: 150.

It’s like trying to build a castle in a tiny desk-top zen garden. *Frantically tears out hair.*

From my experiences so far, I have three tips for tackling radically short stories.

1) Play to tropes

The more the reader can assume about the setting or characters, the better. Think of how much information these two words conjure up: “glass slippers.” Or these: “starship bridge.”

2) Cool vs. essential

There is only room for one plot. Leave out everything tangential. This is not the place for exploring characters deeply. I love cool details. I love fleshing out a setting. This is not the place. Flash fiction is all about paring down to the essence of a story. If your story has a cool essence, it’ll be enough.

3) It’s all about the punchline

The last line has so much power! Use the final line to put a twist on everything that came before, or to cement it in a tear-jerking way. Make your reader want to read it again with that punchline ringing in his or her head.

There’s my three cents on the topic.

Happy Yarning!


“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis

I like this quote, because I sometimes feel that my stories are not original enough. I look at what the plot boils down to and think, who wants to read this again?

But I find when you boil any plot down to its essence it sounds old hat. There’s a reason we like to read the same stories over and over. There’s something true about them.

Happy Yarning!