Ten tips for creating outstanding flash fiction

My billboard display from Queensland Writers’ Centre’s  #8WordStory Competition, November 2017

Last weekend I took part in a flash fiction workshop at Varuna in Katoomba, run in collaboration with the Sydney Writers’ Festival. On a drizzly grey Saturday, when the mountain mist smothered the town like a blanket, a group of writers gathered in front of a crackling fireplace in Varuna’s cosy lounge room to learn from two masters of the form.

Melissa Goode and Barry Lee Thompson facilitated the workshop. Both are accomplished short-story writers with many publications between them, and they were knowledgable and generous with feedback. I now have a better idea of what makes an excellent piece of short short fiction.

Flash fiction can be defined as anything under 1000 words in length. Obviously this definition encompasses a wide variety of work, from the micro-fiction on the billboard above to something approaching a standard short story. Most flash fiction falls between 250 and 1000 words.

In no particular order, here are ten tips I picked up from the workshop for creating a successful work of flash fiction:

  1. It should be more than just a scene. It needs to contain action, movement and content.
  2. It must be highly-charged and deliver an intense emotional impact. Aim for a single emotional effect. The language, imagery and story all need to contribute to eliciting that one emotion.
  3. Evoke the emotion by showing rather than telling where possible. Sometimes this can be challenging with a tight word count.
  4. It needs to go beyond the surface and expand in the reading. Don’t think for the reader; let them do some work.
  5. Your character must yearn for something, and something needs to change by the end of the story.
  6. Make it satisfying and worth the reader’s time.
  7. Write a strong opening, so the reader knows they’re in good hands.
  8. The last line must sing.
  9. The title is important. If using a single word, make it a strong one.
  10. Don’t be afraid to break the writing rules, to play with structure and punctuation.

By Lisa Kenway

Lisa Kenway is an Australian writer and doctor. Her debut psychological thriller, ALL YOU TOOK FROM ME, is coming in August 2024 from Transit Lounge Publishing. An early version was long-listed for the 2020 Richell Prize. A 2023 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre fellow, her work has appeared in Island Online, the Meanjin blog, Meniscus Literary Journal and elsewhere. Find her at www.lisakenway.com or on Twitter @LisaKenway.


  1. Thank you for your writing tips. The writing group I attend runs in-house competitions, which although are termed ‘short story competitions’, would fall into the flash-fiction category. You post has made me think of those competitions in a new light. Thanks 😊


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