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Flash Fiction, Extremely Short; Oppression, Slavery and a Smidgeon of Hope; Tips for Inspiration

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Ann loves to write stories and poems and is always eager to meet challenges issued by other writers or herself, to exceed her comfort zone.

The Challenge

Inspired by a challenge from Chris, aka cam8510, to write some extremely short fiction, I decided to adopt a theme for my response, firstly because that might make easier reading and secondly (actually the main reason if truth be known) my thoughts might respond if dragged together under one heading.

A writer should aim to choose words for impact, to create imagery and appeal to the emotions. Using minimum words for maximum effect should be the goal. This is an exercise to test the best writers, to stretch their boundaries. I haven’t tried extra short fiction before but I’ve cut and honed these words to meet my own restrictions and produced my best for the moment. Another day would tell me to write from another angle perhaps but I’m leaving it as it is for now.

Thus my three tentative efforts are set out below. I’d be pleased to read your honest comments with any constructive criticism.

Small, Colourful, Active, Delightful and Perfectly Formed

Tree Frog

Tree Frog

1. Charity's Demise: Restriction of 50 words

Charity fled, sobbing, from her cruel, belt-wielding husband. Uneven cobbles tripped her toes. When the wheel of the bus caught her shawl, chewed her round and spat her out, her once hopeful life flashed before her in red, white and bone.

Cobblestones or Cobbles

Deriviation of cobble: the diminutive of the archaic English word "cob", meaning "rounded lump", originally referred to any small stone rounded by the flow of water

Deriviation of cobble: the diminutive of the archaic English word "cob", meaning "rounded lump", originally referred to any small stone rounded by the flow of water

2. Tommy: Restriction of 25 words

The ship rose and plummeted on the foam-tossed seas, the mast cracked and tiny Tommy flew from the crow’s nest, fighting-free.

Crow's Nest on top of the Mast

Sailing ship in Bridgwater Docks

Sailing ship in Bridgwater Docks

3. Living without Him: Restriction of 15 words

Oh, how could she live without him? Bruise-free, daughter safe, she'd follow her dreams.

Dreams or Nightmares?


How Do We Choose our Subjects or Themes?

Sometimes the subject for a hub presents itself, in the form of a challenge, a photo or an event which has caught one’s eye, stirred one’s feelings. However, the ideas don’t always offer themselves up served ready and piping hot. We have to look for inspiration. The following works for me.

Take a Notebook!

Take a walk with a notebook. Take a deep breath, count to whatever number you need to gather yourself together, then look around you.

  • Look up, look down, look sideways. What do you see? (write them down)
  • Look at people, look at trees, look at objects, look in windows. What do you see? (write them down)
  • How many wooden things do you see? (write..... - you get the picture)
  • How many metal things do you see?
  • How many hard, soft, delicate, ugly, grotesque, eye-catching, glittering.......?

Take Notes!

Lists, observations, ideas......

Lists, observations, ideas......

Sprial notebooks are easy to use

Sprial notebooks are easy to use

Scroll to Continue
People having Fun

People having Fun

Golden Daffodils in a Garden

Golden Daffodils in a Garden

Towpath Bridge over Canal

Towpath Bridge over Canal

Architecture - Beautiful Bath Abbey

Architecture - Beautiful Bath Abbey


Once you have a list of people, places, nature, architecture and objects, choose a few (or all), put them together in your mind in whatever order suits you and.... there you have it, the shape, mood and flux of your story is before you.

If you like, choose just one scene, maybe a shop window. What or who is in the window, in the shop? Decide why the people are there, what purpose the objects serve, what is going to happen there that day.

Or wander along a canal, through a wood, across a field. What do you see? There will be bird song or birds in the sky. There will be rustlings in the undergrowth. There will be skirmishes in a stream. Trees will have budding leaves or golden leaves or bare branches; all have their beauty.

There will be tracks or pathways you can follow, or those made by other creatures which give you clues and ideas. Look closely at tracks and indentations in the earth or grass. What left them? Where had they been? Why? What does it tell you of the location's history? A whole story can be gleaned from just one track or hollow.

Buildings are of varied shape; in one street you can see high, low, old and new. The style might be Georgian, 30s or Victorian; each one has its peculiar image. Who would have lived there? Are they flats now? Who built them? What history do they tell? What do they look out upon?

Have Fun!

You’ve got the picture. Now go out and get on with it! I’ll expect to see the results.

You don’t have to come up with extra short fiction; you can write poetry, prose, non-fiction or fantasy. Just write! Make sure you write to your highest standard, that your spelling and grammar are correct, that you proof-read. Make sure that your writing does what you want it to do.

Having done all that, publish it! You’ll learn from feedback and if you’re wise, you’ll use it and improve your prose and your style. We’re all learning all the time; it’s how we use that knowledge that makes the difference.

Write with imagination! Write about what you know! Have fun!

How do you Get Ideas for Writing?

© 2015 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 05, 2016:

Thanks, Alun, for such valuable input. Glad you found that one disturbing; it was meant to be.

Yes, a notebook is all the more necessary for me the older I become - I can't remember all those ideas and it's a shame to lose them for want of a pencil and paper.

Sorry to be late replying; things are rather hectic at the moment!


Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on February 02, 2016:

An interesting exercise Ann. I've done a similar thing myself with 50 word mini-stories, so I know the difficulty of this kind of challenge, as well as the value of disciplining oneself to write concisely. Yours are poignant if disturbing, particularly that first piece, which creates a vivid mental image.

Everyone has their own way of finding inspiration, and whilst the majority of my hubs are (more or less) planned, I find that many just materialise as the result of a chance sighting or in some cases an excerpt from a television programme which strikes me as fascinating, and which causes me to research further and to expand the theme, perhaps in a new direction. Even when I travel, I can never be sure which aspect of visiting a place will provide enough inspiration to lead to a hub, but wherever one goes, the idea of using a notbook to record what one sees and to provide later inspiration, must be a good one. Alun

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 15, 2015:

Oh, Jo, what a lovely phrase - 'priceless gems in a perfect setting' - you're too kind. I'm so glad you liked this. I had fun writing the flash fiction; it was a challenge though!

Thanks for popping in today. Good to see you.


Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on May 15, 2015:

Ann, like Faith, I also liken these incredible flash fiction stores to the writing of haiku poems. You have really excelled yourself, each word superbly chosen, like priceless gems in a perfect setting. Beautifully done.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 25, 2015:

Thanks, Vellur, for your lovely comments and the votes. Good to see you.


Sara, you're very kind. I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.


Sara Sarwar Riaz from Michigan, USA on April 22, 2015:

I loved reading your response to the challenge. Such powerful themes behind each brief assemblage of words, put together so effectively. Great work.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 21, 2015:

Each piece drew me in as I read. To express so much in few words is quite tough. Great tips to choose what we want to write on. Voted up.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 18, 2015:

Thank you, Genna. I'm so glad this has inspired you. You're good with words so you only have to use the minimum for maximum effect - start with more and then cut them down, that's a good way to try!

Thanks for the visit; much appreciated.


Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 18, 2015:

I wish I could write flash fiction shorts, but this genre has always been challenging for me. (Ruby (AlwaysExploring), Frank Atanacio and Cam, among others have mastered this style.) I didn’t think it was possible to write shorter, compelling XXS fiction, which seemed even more daunting until I read your examples. I agree with Faith Reaper in that they remind me of Haiku. Your great paragraph -- “Take A Notebook!”-- has inspired me to give this a try.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 12, 2015:

Prof Liway: Thanks for your comment. It's good to use all sorts of things for classroom discussion; I used to do the same with my students.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 12, 2015:

Thank you, Catherine, for your lovely comments. So glad I've inspired you to do some short short stories!


Liwayway Memije-Cruz from Bulacan, Philippines on April 11, 2015:

I love writing because it allows me to express what is within feelings, my appreciation for beauty around me and gratitude to the Lord. I write to share to students additional concepts for classroom discussions.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on April 11, 2015:

Your piece about Mothering Sunday inspired me to write my own piece on Mother's Day. Now you have inspired me to do some micro fiction--very short, short stories. A beginning a middle, and an end in under 100 words.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on April 11, 2015:

This is so wonderfully well done. H+ Voted up +++ Your stories wee great. "Charity's Demise" was practically a poem. And then you segued into using your observations of the word around you for ideas for stories. The whole piece was absolutely charming.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2015:

Thank you, Ruby, for your comment. Writing is fun, isn't it? I love it and I love doing pieces like this. Have a great Easter!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2015:

Hi Theresa! Great to see you here today. I've been away at my daughter's; still no arrival of baby so I'll be back there soon!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Glad you liked these three attempts. You're not the only one to be reminded of haikus; I'm surprised as it didn't cross my mind but I can see why.

Glad you're working on something; I'm looking forward to reading it.

It seems there are a few more glitches on HP as I haven't had notifications of several hubs lately. I, too, am going back to profile pages to check out new hubs.

I much appreciate your support, your votes and your friendship, Theresa.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend.


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 03, 2015:

I really liked this, especially your ' Take a notebook ' Writing is so much fun and it's evident in this piece. Up and away.....

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 02, 2015:

Ann, these XXS flash fiction are brilliant! They remind me a lot of haiku poetry where one is required to use few words but reveal much, as you have done here in these three memorable stories. That first one really packs a punch.

Thank you for spurring us on and inspiring us to write our best in all we write, dear Ann. I have been working on a flash fiction, but it seems it is turning into a short story. I am Ms. Wordy, so I have been editing, editing and editing ... I do not want to publish until I have it down just right to get my desired results of the story.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

I am so sorry for missing this fabulous write here, but sure glad I click on your profile.

Peace and blessings always

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 02, 2015:

What a lovely comment, Audrey, and such a compliment from a poet as good as you; thank you.


Audrey Howitt from California on April 01, 2015:

I am struck again and again by how much this feels like poetry to me--so well done!!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 01, 2015:

Colleen: Thank you so much for the compliments! Yes, I am familiar with the 'baby shoes...' which says it all, doesn't it? I had fun doing this. You should have a go; you're so good with words.


Colleen Swan from County Durham on April 01, 2015:

Hi Ann, These exquisite vignettes are delightful; each one is like its own sculpted poem. You may be familiar with Hemingway's "baby shoes unworn for sale" or something akin to it.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 01, 2015:

Thank you, Maj, for your kind comments.

Yes, I agree with you; I like haiku. I wanted to try this purely as a challenge but I'm quite hooked now! Trouble is you have to plump it out to make a decent sized hub. Finding the best words in the smallest number is a huge challenge but a great discipline.

Good to see you, as always.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 01, 2015:

Hi, Nell! Glad you liked this. I think the longer one gets more information into it and therefore is better for the reader.

Looking forward to reading your response to this challenge.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 01, 2015:

MizBejabbers: Thanks for your kind comments. Glad the first one made an impact. Little Tommy is a boy; they used to put the youngest, usually conscripted, sailor up in the crow's nest as a lookout.

I hardly ever suffer from writer's block either; lucky us! I vary between the above method of accumulating different things and using the thousands of photos I take.

Good to see you today.


travmaj from australia on March 31, 2015:

Hello Ann - this is just superb. I'm so impressed by your work - these short flash fiction stories really work for me. All three of them..

I've only recently discovered this short fiction on hub pages, previously I'd thought of 750-1000 word stories with a twist in the end.

It's an interesting concept. I'm very fond of Haiku and all the complexities in the writing process, (fond of reading it - not writing I should add.)

Well, like your work here, every word counts. How intriguing that so few words can say so much.

Nell Rose from England on March 31, 2015:

Hi Ann, the first one really gave a huge impact, so sad! all of them were amazing! I will really have to give this a go, great hub!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 31, 2015:

Wow! that first one left me speechless and made me want to cry. Red, white, and bone... your use of words was innovative. The second one left me with a question, was Tommy a human or a free little bird, so I had to use my imagination, and the third reminds me of a short story I have on hold.

As a former reporter, I want to write about everything I see. I have the problem of too many subjects, not writer's block. So many subjects, so little time. Voted up

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Thanks, ps. I think the first one is my favourite too. Glad you liked these and thanks for your kind words, votes and share.

Bless you.


Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 31, 2015:

These tiny stories are amazing to me...I loved your first one....:D

It takes a special knack to write such a succinct story that is worth the read...and yours nailed it.

Angels are on the way to you ps

Voted up++++ and shared

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Hi Dora! Glad you enjoyed this and found the suggestions helpful. I know writing is sometimes serious but it has to be fun most of the time, even if it's just the choosing of the words.

Thank you so much for your kind comment.


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 31, 2015:

Ann, your stories covered so much ground in a few words. Excellent! Your suggestions are very helpful. Thanks for sharing that fun approach.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Venkatachari M: Thanks again! I really appreciate your visits and comments today.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Thanks, Flourish! What a lovely comment! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I hope it has provided some inspiration.


Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 30, 2015:

Awesome and interesting facts about story writing. Your stories here tell much in so very few words. Voted up and awesome.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 30, 2015:

From the photos to extremely short fiction to your help with inspiration, this was much enjoyed and appreciated. A creative success! Up and more!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 30, 2015:

Thanks, manatita, for dropping by and for your kind comment; good to see you.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 30, 2015:

Thank you so much, Kevin, for your comment, vote & share. Great to see you today!


manatita44 on March 30, 2015:

Well-written and very nice short stories. Cute.

The Examiner-1 on March 30, 2015:

That was interesting and inspirational Ann. I liked it a lot. I voted up, shared and pinned it.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 30, 2015:

Thanks, Frank, for your kind comments.

Yes, flash fiction seems to have so many definitions (mostly subjective). I had fun following Chris' extremely short ideas, just to challenge myself to as few words as poss. I like the discipline of using minimal words to describe something.

Your stories are among the best of flash fiction on hubpages.


Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 30, 2015:

annart, you have accomplished the challenge.. but they just seem too short to be considered flash fiction.. There is no accepted definition of the length of the flash fiction. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction. I love the first one best: Charity's Demise.. made more sense to me as a flash fiction.. you are getting so much better in creating ann... bless you

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 30, 2015:

Thanks, John, for your lovely comments. Glad you liked these.

My last two hubs have taken a while to appear on my profile list too so I don't know what's going on; hopefully it's just another little glitch!


John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 29, 2015:

Wonderful work Ann. For some reason I am not getting notified when you publish a new hub. I found this through comments on Cam's hub. I love how you themed the stories and reduced the word count for each one. I thought the first one "Charity's Demise" in particular was brilliant. The rest of the information you provided was helpful too. Voted up.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Bill, you've just made me go all blurry-eyed! Your words 'got' me; thank you for such praise. I think the mentor is you but I'm proud to be your peer.

I'm glad you like 'red, white and bone'; I was happy with that bit.

Hope the farming is going well. Enjoy what's left of the weekend, bill!


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 29, 2015:

"Red, white and bone." You had me right there.

Taking a break from farm work, and what a wonderful way to break. You are a writer. Say it with me and say it proudly. You chose your words with care and they conveyed that which perfectly chosen words convey. Brilliant, my writing peer and mentor.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Well, Mary, how lovely you are! I'm happy that you enjoyed these and hopefully the ideas for motivation might help some other writers. Thanks for the votes etc. I'm doubtful that I master all I try but I do like trying to master it all!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Harishprasad: Thank you for your kind comments in response. Glad you found it useful too and I appreciate your vote and share.


Mary Craig from New York on March 29, 2015:

You leave us some pretty large footsteps to try to follow in Ann. You master everything you try.

This entire read was inspiration. Inspiration for now and for future writing.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Harish Mamgain from New Delhi , India on March 29, 2015:

Great ! So tiny yet so powerful ! All three stories are very interesting. 'Charity's Demise ' speaks so much within an small ambit, and so does the other story ' Living Without Him '. These kind of stories are like 20-20 version of cricket. Ann, what you added after the stories is inspiring and very useful to gain insight about writing process. I enjoyed the whole small package. Great response to Chris's challenge ! Voted up and shared.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Well thank you, Chris. I'm so glad you like my response and I'm delighted with your comments. I'm spurred to try a few more!


Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 29, 2015:

Ann, you have done a superb job on the short flash fiction stories. The rest of the hub is challenging and helpful as well. I have yet to write one as short as 15 words. Living Without Him, is simply amazing. Everything is there. Charity's Demise is full of emotion, action and a chilling end. Tommy nearly reads like a poem. Well done Ann. Thanks for taking on this challenge.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

What a great approach, DJ! I do find the characters take over sometimes. It's great that yours are like a movie. How good is that!

I have no doubt your characters will hang on to you - they need an outlet, don't they? Your writing is great. You made me laugh.

Thanks for your comments. Good to see you.


DJ Anderson on March 29, 2015:

Hi, Ann,

Lovely work, here.

How am I inspired? Research gives me times and places.

My characters take lead and I follow their direction. When I am in the zone, it is like a movie playing out in my mind. I simply write down what I see.

When I write poetry, my heart does the talking and I write down what I hear.

I fear that at some point, my characters are going to fire me and look for

a more advanced writer.

Until then,


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