Short Courses

Learn Flash Fiction This Spring!

What is Flash Fiction? Short Courses Creative Writing Teaching Fellow, Gavin Inglis, shares more details about the micro literary form including his 10-week Short Course on the subject.

Gavin Inglis, Short Courses Teaching Fellow recently led a workshop at Paisley Book Festival on Flash Fiction. Gavin is also running a Term 3 Short Course 'Writing Flash Fiction 1', so it seemed like the perfect time for him to give us an overview on what exactly flash fiction is...

When praised for his writing style, Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Flash fiction is a literary form that takes this philosophy to heart, cramming a fully-rounded, powerful story into 1000 words – or even 500 words.


Internationally, it has other names: the short-short story, postcard fiction, micro fiction, fast fiction, furious fiction, and my personal favourite, the smoke-long story – just long enough to enjoy whilst smoking a cigarette.

Yes, it does sound like something invented as a marketing gimmick. But the form has roots in fables and parables, jokes and ghost stories. It has a lot to offer both beginning and experienced writers. A flash fiction can be completed in a single session, even in a lunch hour – and a beginner can learn more from finishing a short work than starting something ambitious and losing interest halfway. It offers the chance to try out different voices and styles without becoming wedded to them, and a dedicated writer of flash fiction will quickly assemble a repertoire of stories for publication or performance.

For the veterans, the form demands economy of expression and precise word choice. The discipline of a tight word count requires the writer to shed extraneous description and other clutter; to penetrate to the essence of the story being told. Experience writing flash fiction is transferable to longer work, and “the parts that people skip” are often boring to write, too.

The Centre for Open Learning runs a 10-week course on flash fiction which is open to both beginners and experienced writers. In the early weeks we concentrate on getting started, with inspirational techniques for tackling that intimidating blank page. As the course develops, we explore a structured revision process, to draw out the energy from your early drafts and shape them into something focused.

You’ll learn why it’s all right for your first draft to be an incoherent mess, and how to preserve something useful from the experiments you discard. You’ll acquire skills in characterisation, description and narrative voice. As you gain confidence, you’ll have the opportunity to get feedback from your peers in a safe and constructive environment. Finally, I’ll set a challenge on a theme that the class will decide together, and you’ll have the chance to assemble your short-short stories into something larger.

Throughout the 10 weeks, you’ll hear and read examples of the best published flash fiction: intriguing, startling, haunting and funny, from authors in Scotland and across the world. And with regular suggested markets for your work, you can set your sights on joining them.

Has this piqued your interest?

Book onto Gavin's 'Writing Flash Fiction 1' Short Course here

Browse more of our Term 3 Creative Writing and Literature Courses taking place this April