Story Prompts: Ten Impulses Towards Flash

Sunlit Bear Sculpture

Tell a familiar story from the point of view of a character who usually doesn't get to speak, like the mother bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I talked yesterday about flash fiction, what it is and why writers might want to write some. I mentioned that it’s a great place to try out new techniques. So here’s five possible things to focus on in a flash piece, with five more coming on Monday. Pick one and sit down and write the story. How long should it be? That’s entirely your call.

  1. Write a story in future tense. Tell the reader what’s going to happen, an anticipation of the story to come.
  2. Write a haiku about a place. Now take it and expand it with an important meeting or goodbye taking place there.
  3. Write a piece that is a conversation and that only uses one syllable words.
  4. Write a piece that is the conversation’s setting, in which at least half the words are three syllables or more, and in which no sentence is shorter than ten words. Optional: Make it a description from the pov of one of the participants in the conversation, who has a secret they desperately want to keep from the other character.
  5. Write a piece telling a familiar story from the POV of a character who doesn’t usually get to speak, like the mother bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or the superhero nobody’s ever heard of.
  6. Go into your kitchen and take out two spices. Mix a couple of pinches and sniff them. Now write about what the smell reminds you of.
  7. What is a present you’ve never gotten but always wanted? Write a flash about it being given to someone else.
  8. Who is the saddest superhero and what was their last adventure?
  9. The game never ended but went on for decades. Write a story that tells the reader why.
  10. Go for a walk or ride and look at things until you notice something you’ve never noticed before. Now write about it.

P.S. Want to read some flash fiction being written before anyone knew to call it that? Try James Thurber’s Fables for Our Time. Or for something more contemporary, Michael Swanwick’s Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures.

Enjoy these story prompts and want more content like this? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.

Prefer to opt for weekly interaction, advice, opportunities to ask questions, and access to the Chez Rambo Discord community and critique group? Check out Cat’s Patreon. Or sample her writing here.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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