Tips from Tommy Dean on writing micros

Our 21st £1460 prize fund Award closes this Sunday, 5th June, midnight GMT. And whether you are polishing an entry for the competition, about to write one last minute, or thinking about other submission opportunities, here are some excellent tips on writing micros from our judge Tommy Dean. Read our Judge’s Q and A with him here.

Tommy gave us permission to publish the thread he wrote on Twitter today, which has a focus on 100 word stories. But the advice is equally important for anyone writing longer flashes. To remind you, you have 300 words maximum for our Award.

We’re thrilled our small press, Ad Hoc Fiction, is publishing a guide book next year (2023) by Tommy on writing 100 word stories. So he will be adding examples and exercises to the sort of advice he has listed below. And if you want to read Tommy’s own brilliant work, his latest flash fiction collection, Hollows, is out with Alternating Current Press and also available on Amazon

Tommy’s Twitter thread.

After reading over lots of 100 word stories in the last 48 hours, here are some thoughts on how they work:

1). Your opening line has to do so much work! Character, pov, setting, conflict are integral to getting the story started in the right place!

2). Specific, concrete details compressed for as much meaning as possible. No time for exposition that doesn’t add context, put pressure on the character to act and/or react.

3). Find the rhythm between narration and description. We need just enough detail to be in the moment, to allow our characters to do something, to find them fighting for or against their desires or fears.

4). Be rigorous in cutting anything that doesn’t add to the story or characterization. No fluff. No wondering or searching exposition. The writer might have needed it while drafting, but the reader doesn’t so cut sharply! Trust the reader to get it!

5). Endings shouldn’t be pat, one-sided, summarizing of meaning or themes. Give the reader room for speculation and inference.

6). Find room for a central image/metaphor. The shorter the story, the more it relies on metaphor to create depth. Typical plots can be refreshed by an apt metaphor or fresh central image!

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