These flash fiction prompts will challenge you to create short and gripping narratives that are under 1000 words. Though many are categorized, don’t feel limited!
Flash fiction can be whatever you want it to be. Whether you use the bite-sized stories you write as exercises, standalone pieces, or segments of a larger work, the condensed length is beneficial. I think you will find that the practice of writing flash fiction will help you gain control over word choice, make your writing feel more kinetic, and increase your abilities when it comes to writing without a clear roadmap. In other words, follow your intuition without inhibition.
Now that you know some of the goals of these flash fiction prompts, let’s get writing.
- What started off as a sleepwalking problem leads to a night of adventure when Dane gets behind the wheel and does what he was too afraid to do when he was awake.
- Callie is convinced that she is being spied on by her creepy neighbors, but when she goes into their house, she finds a little more than she bargained for.
- While painting a portrait of what was thought to be a fictional subject, an artist has a revealing flashback about their childhood that uncovers some forgotten memories.
- A so-called horse whisperer is giving a young boy a lesson on a temperamental horse, when all of a sudden, the horse gallops off into the distance and it’s up to this inexperienced rider to hold on and steer the horse to safety.
- A car plummets to the ocean after the driver falls asleep at the wheel. Explain his escape or demise, and flashback to scenes from his highly emotional trip to see his long-distance girlfriend that leaves him with some unresolved feelings.
- Go inside the mind of a patient whose heart stops for 10 minutes, which gives the patient the chance to make a shocking discovery that reframes their life. Include supernatural elements, but do not dare use the phrase “the light flashed before their eyes,” or any other near-death experience tropes.
- When an alcoholic bus driver falls asleep at the wheel on the way to a charter school, it’s up to two 10-year-old student to steer the students to safety, which will be hard, since they’re not tall enough to reach the pedals.
- It’s Marnie’s first night as a babysitter, and she’s only an hour in when she hears a window shatter and the alarm go off. Too bad the house is deep in the forest without neighbors.
- A double date between two college-aged couples goes a little too well when best friends Lisa and Jasmine realize they prefer each other’s new boyfriends over their current boyfriends.
- It’s Friday night at the karaoke bar, and when the host calls Jordan up to sing “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by the Darkness. When both a boy and a girl by the same name come up to sing the song they both chose, love is only a duet away.
- Tell a story of a new relationship from both people’s perspectives. Here’s the catch: there should be no scenes between the two of them. You can only use descriptions to other characters, diary entries, thoughts, dreams, and anything else that doesn’t involve contact between the two main characters.
- Two teens get caught at the top of a roller coaster in a tale of love at first sight.
- Explore “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World” from a more literal perspective. That is, give (dare I say) snapshot accounts of the diverse reactions of the Revolutionary War from countries across the world, ending with Britain.
- King Henry the VIII had 6 wives … but what about his boyfriend?
- The Salem Witch Trials are brewing, but it turns out, real witches are the only ones who can save the town from an alien attack.
- Every 500 years, ancient Egyptian mummies come back to life for one night. It’s 2200. Teleportation has been invented, and it’s time for them to rise.
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- Psychic shops seem to be going out of style, at least until an eccentric old couple of mystics take things to the 21st century with an occult photo-sharing app called “Pentagram.”
- Something seems fishy at the local pet store, so the best police officer in town goes in to investigate undercover. It’s easy since she’s a golden retriever.
- Write about a potato family: The Mashes. One of their spuds wastes all his time getting baked, while the sweet parents can barely control their spunky tots. Things get even crazier when you throw their French fry foreign exchange student into the mix. Make a lot of awful puns.
- Mall Santas can be fun, until one particular absent-minded fella shows up as the Easter Bunny in December.
- A waiter’s favorite celebrity has entered the restaurant, so he keeps serving her the wrong food to keep her there. The plan is not effective.
- When a girl who lives in rural Florida brings back a lizard to the house to keep as a pet, her family is surprised by how quickly it grows and forces her to send it back into the wilderness. However, she has formed a bond with what turns out to be one of the world’s last dragons.
- Devin’s aptitude for swimming seems like a normal talent, until she starts growing gills. Soon, it becomes clear she’ll have to leave the human world and accept her fate: she’s turning into a mermaid.
- A werewolf’s first transition is hard enough, not to mention the fact that a whole audience is watching. How does Gavin Wolfe escape this nightmare?
- An evil wizard transforms 4 cousins into board game pieces. To survive, they must complete in a Life-size challenge, but what will happen to the loser?
- A newly famous neurosurgeon is curing his patients of cancer, but his new tumor-shrinking technology leads to abnormal hallucinations that cause readers to do the bidding of one they call Spacelord. It turns out, this surgeon is Spacelord, and he forces patients to do his bidding. Tell the story from one patient’s perspective.
- It’s a World War unlike Earth has seen before when the advanced inhabitants of Venus are able to manipulate the trajectory of the sun and send it plummeting to Earth, who, unbeknownst to Venus, has aligned with the even more advanced and sparsely populated Mars. Do they evacuate, fight, or both?
- When outdoor animals are coming back to their owners every morning with strange needle marks, it’s up to Jennifer to see what this underground animal testing organization is all about.
- An alien community takes over Disney World by secretly inhabiting the costumes of the performers. No one knows about the kidnappings due to media coverup, until a young and brand-new reporter Madeleine Klein decides to do some digging. Tell the story from her perspective.
- Tanner, wrongly accused of murder, is sure he is going to be executed, until a new guard turns out to be his estranged brother, Evan. Can they work together to save Tanner from death row and rebuild the trust that had been broken so many years before?
- Stealing from the government is easier when you’re in charge of it, but it will take more than money for beloved Governor Baker to bribe a betrayed jury to acquit him.
- An undercover cop has been posing as a prostitute for years to help stop the practice in her town, but the stakes are high when a famous politician shows up in the bar where she is working that night.
- A group of the few remaining humans who are not fighting in World War III have taken cover in the New York subway system, which is sealed off from the city. When they almost run out of supplies and are forced to escape, what meets them at the surface?
- Zoe is selected as one of The Eight to fight for her country’s land against its enemy, but it turns out, she’s in love with someone from the enemy’s land.
- Eli is a member of the first group of kids to be injected with the prototype of a special vaccine that take the place of school by granting them a plethora of general knowledge. Every set of knowledge is different, and Eli’s is a lot to bear, but it could be enough to help him stop this dangerous program.
- Evolution is backtracking, causing humans to revert to animalistic, instinctual behavior. Paint a picture of this world.
It’s time for the lightning round. Use these mini flash fiction prompts to write stories that are 300 words or less. I refuse to categorize these because I hope they will give you just enough inspiration to take them wherever you want them to go.
- Jim wakes up in a hotel at gunpoint surrounded by his coworkers. He knows exactly what information they need from him, but he also knows a way to (hopefully) make them turn on the boss and get out. Can this master of deceit sway the crowd?
- Ari’s love for game shows means she is so excited when she is cast for Lock Box. It turns out it’s a scam leads her alone into a room with a serial killer.
- The unlikely team of a snake and a hamster team up to escape the pet store and set all of the animals free on the only day there is no staff: Christmas.
- Write about the dramatic moment a butterfly emerges from its cocoon.
- Zombie Ski Chase
- My First Flight, My Last Flight
- The Radioactive Hurricane
- Human Zoo
- Never-ending Carousel
- One Night in Vegas, 10 Years Sober
- Return of the Lost Tribe
- Invisible Girl in The City That Never Sleeps
I hope you enjoyed these flash fiction prompts! Comment with what inspired you the most.
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The Short Story Essay
by Owen Fourie
“Yes! A short story!”
I have found that most students react favorably to an assignment requiring them to write a short story. They sense that the straitjacket has been removed, and the creative juices begin to flow.
Of course, for some students who have a long tale to tell, the shackles are still there in the form of a restriction to a certain number of words. If you find yourself in such a position, take it as a challenge that will serve to heighten your creativity as you teach yourself to write a complete short story in 1,000 words or 1,500 words. Occasionally, you could also feel restricted if your instructor rules out a certain genre, such as romance.
Bear in mind that writing a short story is a measure not only of your ability to write but also of your appreciation of how literature works. Good storytelling always has a structure, which we call a plot or a plotline, and this is what you need to demonstrate in your essay. Before dealing specifically with the development of the plot, you must choose your topic for a short story.
Hatching the plot
When you receive your assignment, make a list of your ideas taking into account the required length and the permitted genres. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are my interests? Skiing? Ice skating? Coin collecting? Egyptology? Ballet? Skateboarding?
- Which of these interests will serve as a good vehicle for a short story?
- What will be the problem or the conflict to be resolved?
- Who will be the hero, the heroine, the protagonist?
- Who will be the villain, the antagonist?
- Where will the story take place? Choose a setting familiar to you.
- When will it take place? Is it historical, contemporary, futuristic, science fiction? Remember that it is easier and better to keep the time frame of a short story spanning only a matter of a few days, perhaps an hour, but generally not less than that.
By asking these questions, your answers to some of them will already prepare the way for the development of the plot. At this point you need to work on your outline. To do so, you need to take the elements of the plotline into account. Simply stated, the plotline reveals the following stages:
- The exposition giving the time, the place, and the characters involved;
- The rising action revealing the problem, the conflict;
- The climax: the high point of the story where the action will take the characters one way or the other;
- The falling action telling of events leading from the climax to the resolution;
- The resolution telling how all the tensions and complications of the problem or the conflict have been resolved.
As you work on your outline, you need to work according to the plotline. The simplest form for the shortest of stories will devote one paragraph to each of these stages, perhaps two or three paragraphs for the rising action. With your outline complete, you are ready to write your story.
Getting down to writing … and a twist
Your writing should proceed through several drafts. In the first draft, you simply write without hesitation or much care about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Your objective is to get the story down on paper without being troubled by any thoughts of whether this is correct, although you must keep to your outline.
As you come to your second draft, you take more care, you edit, and you correct obvious errors. With each draft, you improve your story, and the more drafts you make, the better your story should be. Once you have typed what you hope will be the final copy, leave it for a day or two–more, if possible–before returning to it and proofreading it. That proofreading will probably reveal more errors that have to be corrected before you print out the real final copy.
There are two more important points that you need to bear in mind as you write your story:
- Description versus dialog: When you write a short story, you should focus on narration rather than dialog. While some dialog is permissible–dialog that is essential to move the story forward–remember that you are not writing a play. Your narration can be in the first person as one of the characters telling the story or in the third person (or third person omniscient) as an outside observer. If you write in the first person, avoid telling a story that amounts to an autobiographical narrative.
- The best short stories contain a twist that comes at the very end to catch the reader off guard. Throughout the story, the writer gives hints of what will be revealed in the end, but they are subtle hints that will still leave the reader saying, “Of course! I should have seen that,” as the twist in the tale is given.
An excellent example of this is seen in O. Henry’s “After Twenty Years.” It is a little under 1,300 words in length and is easily and quickly read. Interestingly, the writer makes good use of dialog that moves the story forward–not one-word lines of exclamations, or only a few words in a series of single-line exchanges, but paragraphs of several lines spoken by each character. That is proper use of dialog in a short story. You will find the link to “After Twenty Years” at the end of this post.
If you follow all that I have told you here, you should be able to write a good short story and enjoy doing it too.
What is your experience with writing short stories? Do you have any useful insights? What are your particular struggles? What are your thoughts about O. Henry’s “After Twenty Years” as a model for short story writing? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
Link to O. Henry’s short story “After Twenty Years”:http://www.enotes.com/best-o-henry-text/after-twenty-years
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