All About Flash

All about flash…. from people you know and some you don’t! 

I love the challenge of flash fiction: how it occupies an aesthetic distinct from, say, the space of the conventional short story, or indeed the conventional poem (whatever that is!). And of course, the concise space of flash fiction accords with its distillation of plot, character, cadence and imagery. In flash fiction and its succinctness is a ripeness which bursts open in the reader’s mind.

–Siobhan Harvey, poet, editor, 2019 NFFD judge


Flash fiction is defined as a story between six and 1,000 words. It is a protean form which illuminates a moment or a series of moments. Sometimes dismissed by critics as the passing fad of a generation whose short attention span cannot cope with reading a whole novel, this view does not take into account the deceptively complex nature of flash. Because of its brevity, each word must carry its own weight in meaning and allusion. The boundaries between prose poetry and flash fiction are sometimes blurred. However, while flash may utilise the semantics, suggestion, rhythm and elliptical leaps of prose poetry, it needs a narrative arc to place it within the realm of fiction.
                                                                                                                                                Sandra Arnold, novelist, essayist, short story and flash fiction writer, 2020 NFFD judge


I think flash’s popularity comes from the paradox of how such a miniature form can still release such potent effects. I often want to use the metaphor of a soup stock cube, or perhaps a tequila shot. Small but intense; compact but strong. It becomes addictive trying to master the kind of precision and tight pacing you need for a successful piece of flash fiction: maybe another metaphor is that it’s the parkour cat-jump of literature. And, as with other literary forms, the best examples of flash fiction deserve reading and re-reading – much the way we can re-listen to a favourite song – either because we find something new in it each time, or because nothing else can quite replicate or capture the experience it renders.

Emma Neale, poet, novelist, editor, 2017 NFFD judge


There’s hardly any form  that offers so much fun among so many challenges and at the same time teaches you so much about life.

–Elizabeth Smither, poet, author, 2016 NFFD judge

Writing flash fiction is like riding a wobbly unicycle between suggestion and explanation, between innuendo and a slap in the face, between compression and deflation, between rabbit and hat, between poetry and prose. Writing it successfully, is negotiating a tiny circuit without falling off.
James Norcliffe, poet, novelist, editor, 2016 NFFD judge
Flash fiction – a rooster running this way and that, his red comb lighting small fires in the woods.
Frankie McMillan, poet, writer of flash fiction, 2014 NFFD judge; 
2013 and 2015 NFFD competition winner
To say that a flash must contain all the literary elements that a longer story does – plot, setting, character, conflict, narration – would be argued against by the proponents of experimental flash who lean more toward slice-of-life sketches. In the end, a flash is simply a story in miniature, a work of art carved on a grain of rice – something of import to the artist or writer that is confined and reduced, either by design or outcome, into a small square space using the structural devices of prose line and paragraph form with the purpose of creating an intense, emotional impact… The short short story has a long, rich history, and many countries and writers share in its evolution. It has survived many social and technological changes, perhaps finding a renewed audience because of its almost adrenaline-inducing ability to capture, in its fragmented brevity, life and some essential truth.

Tara L. Masih, author, editor, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction; founding editor, Best Small Fictions


People are forever trying to find analogies for flash fiction: it’s like lightning, fireworks, dynamite, a bonsai tree; it’s like opening champagne, striking oil, unearthing a truffle, riding a unicycle across a tightrope strung over a canyon … We used to look forward to a time when people might stop trying. But the analogies say something about the form: it’s unpindownable – and is all the better for being so.

-Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, directors of the International Flash Fiction Association (IFFA), editors of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press


Here’s to flash fiction and all its bold, nervy, language-besotted practitioners. Here’s to creating multiverses in the heart of a atom. Here’s to soaring takeoffs and crash landings. Here’s to beautiful, glorious flash fiction that is its own unique form. May we continue to innovate and experiment and upend. May we aspire always to be the teenaged rebels of the literary canon.
Kathy Fish, author (with Robert Vaughan) of RIFT,
Wild Life, Together We Bury It and more 
Flash fiction is punk rock in 1977. Loud, fast, manic; three chords and the truth you’re in the mood to scream. Flash fiction is jumping out of an airplane with a parachute you made yourself even though you didn’t even look up ‘How To Sew A Parachute’ on YouTube. Flash fiction is going to a zoo and letting all the animals out and feeling good about it until you remember you’re an animal too and now some of them are chasing you through the street. As you run, you laugh and sob and try and remember why before they catch you and crunch your supposedly normal bones, guts — most sweet, your human memories.
Bud Smith, author of F250
The best stories [are] those where the reader [is] made immediately but implicitly aware that something else is going on here. These stories are artful, but so well crafted, so cleverly understated, that the reader becomes irresistibly engaged with the story.
Graeme Lay, writer, editor and 2012 NFFD judge;
from  the introduction to the third century

Short on words but long on depth, flash fiction stings like good poetry. Punchy, succinct and surprising, the best flash stories shift the reader’s heart but they also keep it beating hard.

     aaaaaaaaaaaaaaNuala Ní Chonchúir (Ireland),  author of Mother AmericaNudeThe Closet of Savage Mementos and Miss Emily


I find, in flash fiction, a glorious paradox: a form that is physically compressed yet endlessly expansive.  Allusion, subtext, telling details, what thrives along the margins/between the lines — the resonance after the last bow pass on a cello — what is said/unsaid, what is at stake, brief, but potent.  Terra Incognita.  Whole worlds to be explored with a few well-placed footfalls.  Where even silence, if you listen, can be heard, with all the wing-beats, noisy winds, and implications that dwell within it.

Robert Scotellaro (US), author of Bad Motel, Measuring the Distance  and other collections; 2016 Micro Madness editor (with Nod Ghosh)



Flash fiction – a story in a few hundred words – means taking story bones from an author and fleshing them in the mind of a reader. The author has barely enough words to push a character through a doorway, so the reader must choose between blonde or dark, and add the buttons and pearls. In this way, flash fiction may be the most intimate of the prose forms, since the reader often contributes as much, via imagination and interpretation, as the author. The best flash fiction tells its story in the fewest possible words, which melt away during reading to leave nothing more than a haunted moment, sharp and deep as a memory.

T. Upchurch (UK), winner of UK NFFD micro comp


If flash were a gun, it would be the SwissMiniGun, the smallest gun ever. But it would still shoot bullets at 270mph and command respect for tiny weapons. If flash were a painting, it would be Picasso’s Three Musicians. At first you’d think it was all there in its one collage square, but the more you stare at it, the more you see it begin to vibrate with song and a dog’s wagging tail. If flash were a song, it would be Crowded House’s Four Seasons in One Day. I love that song because the Finns have left a part out, so I can sing along and feel like I’m part of the House. If flash were someone I knew, it would be my friend Velvet. She describes herself as “remarkably, fantastically short”. Or it might be Pete, the maintenance man. His bearhugs last only a second, but his dirty clean smell stays with me the whole day. If flash had been my day yesterday, I could have gotten much more done in a tenth of the time. Flash would have had time to teach time a thing or two about eloquence at the tempo vivacissimo. Flash is fast, but it’s not fast food. It might have taken years to perfect, like a sauce that reduces to a rich, viscous demi-glace. Flash is whisky in a shot glass. Flash is an adult fly. Flash is this moment right now.

Christopher Allen (US/Germany), Editor of Smokelong Quarterly

and author of Conversations wtih Teri S. O’Type:A Satire


I love short stories of all lengths, I’m rather an addict, but flash fiction – which has been around for decades, is no new 21st century invention – has a special place in my heart. Yes, these are very very short stories, but they are also something else, these tiny fictions are their own beasts. Done well, they almost always have an otherworldy nature, perhaps as a consequence of their brevity. Where short stories leave a lot to the reader’s imagination, flash fiction demands the reader fill in almost everything, and the best flash fiction strikes that note perfectly, giving you just enough to conjur up these worlds from only a page-full of words, or often less. There is alchemy at work here, each word, each space, each comma carries a burden, must be placed just so. And when they are, in a great flash story, you gasp, you are left reeling. And you are left shifted, altered. I cannot forget fantastic flash fiction. I don’t want to.

Tania Hershman (UK), author of My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions


Flash fiction is to traditional short stories what lightning is to a storm… Thunder, rain, sleet, wind and lightning are all part of the excitement of a full blown nor’easter or afternoon thunderstorm. The rush of hard rain opens our eyes; its steady drum on the roof soothes us until that first roll of thunder raises our pulse; lightning makes us anticipate and 1 2 3 count. Then rain again and we wait for another loud crack, more electrical fireworks, the clouds to clear, the skies to blue. A good storm is filled with promise, surprise, fear, suspense, relief, joy, and sometimes sadness. So is a good story.

Gay Degani (US), editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles; interview at Flash Frontier


A good flash piece is a tickle, a pinch or a slap, and leaves the mind tingling.  Poetry can do that too, but more through surprising use of words, than through plot or an unseen ending.

P S Cottier (Australia), poet and editor, author of A Quiet Day and Other Stories and The Glass Violin, quoted in AntipodeanSF


Flash fiction is a tray of frosted petite-fours, so tiny and delectably edible, far less caloric than its bigger siblings: the cake slice, the tarte, the piece of pie. So you can take a flash fiction delicately between your fingers and slip it inside you, and savour its sugary warmth, or its sticky jelly center, or its biting lemon curd, and you will hardly put on a pound.  Flash fiction is approved by Weight Watchers International.

Susan Tepper (US), author of From the Umberplatzen and The Merrill Diaries


Sergei Yesenin

Dear Slawa, call me a tragic figure, or call me an idiot, but I don’t actually believe in flash fiction as a literary art form. That makes me feel like a little mermaid on land. Shorts have a number of definite advantages for quick consumption; but plastic bags also have definite advantages over cloth bags (like when it rains) and still they tend to break and they don’t age well. Having said that, when I think about it, I have a similar prejudice against poetry so it really must be my problem: I just don’t understand poetry properly, but neither do I understand flash. Both seem like a single glove of a pair of gloves. They beg to be completed. Maybe poetry and flash must be sung or spoken to attain the same fullness as a novel. My resolve to write is in tatters. I will now take my madness with me into a hot bath and hopefully drown out these voices of right and wrong because they’re so useless. Afterwards, I’ll rub myself off with snow and I hope to cleanse myself in the process. If none of these thermodynamic measures should help, there’s still the Vodka.» [Taken from: RRRrrr – a Novel in Letters by D. Dzhugdzhur (Д. Джугджу́р), Irkutsk, Siberia, 1984.] [Photo: Sergei Yesenin, 1925 ]

Marcus Speh (Germany), bi-lingual flasher (in English and German)


Flash fiction is about finding the keys to a much larger story, and using them to tell it in 360 degrees, high-def, technicolour 3D, without going all the way to the end of the page. It’s about immersing your reader in a moment and making all of their nerve fibres tingle. It’s about moving one small stone and causing an avalanche.
Calum Kerr (UK), founder of NFFD UK and Flash365
From the Archives: National Flash Fiction Day organisers discuss flash fiction in general and the founding of NFFD on Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday programme.
-Interview with Lynn Freeman, Sunday, 6 May 2012