What makes good Flash Fiction? Our 2019 FFS judges tell us what they think.

So, you’re all set. You’ve got your ticket booked for our Flash Fiction Slam, you’ve got your story written, your nerves are set to ‘steel: strongest possible’, and you’re ready to compete for prizes that include publication, books, and a detailed critique from Strix editor SJ Bradley, not to mention a coveted place in our Flash Fiction Hall of Fame.

Our Festival Team spoke to this year’s judges, Benjamin Judge and Tania Hershman, to find out what, in their opinion, makes for the best Flash Fiction.

Benjamin, whose story “Drinking Coffee with my Father in the Most Expensive Cafe in Manchester” won the Real Story Prize, says: “The perfect flash fiction performance should be like one of those fancy bank robberies they do in Hollywood movies; meticulously planned, impeccably executed, and not a second longer than it needs to be. Don’t feel obliged to use all your five minutes. There is as much skill in taking things out of a story as putting them in.”

Tania, who co-authored Writing Short Stories with Courttia Newland, and has held Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellowships at the Universities of Bristol and Manchester, told us: “Flash fiction can be any style, any genre, it’s a whole story with almost everything left out. What grabs me as a reader is voice and language – I want to hear the characters right from the first line – there’s no time for introductions, for background. One of my favourite tiny stories is s Wife One In Country by Lydia Davis. You know something is different from those opening lines, her choice of words, the tone, conveys everything you need to know about this situation. Nothing enormous happens, but also all of life, all the joy and despair, is here. It’s perfect, painful and astonishing, and lingers long after you finish reading.”

Ben added: “A great example of how to create a world in a few sentences is New Year’s Eve by Valerie O’Riordan.”

Creating an entire world and story in just under 5 minutes is no mean feat, and last year’s judge, Clare Fisher, told us that 2018’s stories still linger with her: “The flash fiction form, in compacting fictional narrative into a short and poetic space, makes for explosive writing, which easily translates into performance. The contributions were of a consistently high standard whilst being incredibly diverse in terms of tone, form and voice. I can still recall the way Fay Kesby’s winning piece punched me in the gut, even now, almost a year later. I look forward to seeing and hearing this year’s contributions and would strongly encourage writers to take part.”

Inspired to take part, or just come along and hear the stories? Book your tickets for our Flash Fiction Slam here. Or, if you’re inspired to learn how to write Flash Fiction with Tania Hershman, you can book for her Flash Fiction with a Dash of Science workshop here.