What Makes Flash Fiction Sizzle or Fizzle?

by guest columnist, Avily Jerome

What Flash Fiction Markets Want

Avily Jerome is the Editor of Havok Magazine, the speculative fiction imprint at Splickety Publishing Group. When not editing flash fiction stories, she is a stay-at-home mom of six and is an aspiring speculative fiction author.

Interview by Farheen Gani

Flash fiction is one of the most enjoyable types of fiction to read because it’s quick and doesn’t require a great time commitment. You can read a flash story in a waiting room or in the bathroom or any time you have a few minutes to kill.

However, the very things that make flash fiction fun to read are what make it hard to write. An entire story world, developed characters, and a well-structured plot must be written in one thousand words or less. And, of course, as with all stories, it must engage your reader. Any story that is boring or has flat characters will be laid aside, regardless of how short it is.

Splickety Publishing Group looks for a few major elements when we’re deciding whether or not to acquire a story.

  1. Every word must count.

With flash stories, there’s no room for fluff. Excessive description or scene-setting pulls away from the story. With so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time, your writing needs to be concise and vivid. Use strong verbs and adjectives, and cut out anything that doesn’t directly add to the story.

  1. It must have a complete story arc.

Story structure in a flash piece is a more fluid concept than in a novel, but your story arc still has the same elements. It should start with some sort of inciting incident, include some major obstacle to overcome, and conclude with some sort of resolution at the end. It not only needs to engage the reader—it needs to satisfy him.

  1. It should have a twist of some sort.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it is something that we at SPG like to see. Some of the best flash pieces have a twist that the reader doesn’t see coming. If you can incorporate an element of shock or humor or something thought provoking into your story, it’s more likely to hold our attention.

In short, we crave interesting stories that are tightly written. If we think your story has merit, we’ll work with you to make it the best it can be. Please visit our website at http://splicketypubgroup.com/submission-guidelines/ for upcoming themes and how to submit.

Get a FREE writing evaluation at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (top right corner). Questions? Write to DeborahOwen@CWInst.com.

Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 49.

If you aren’t ruthless with your own words, verbiage and errors will slip in and devour the meat. Stuart Aken gives these tips.

Stuart Aken


In this series, I’ve aimed at trimming our writing. I’ve tried to include examples that might seed ideas for your writing. Our readers will appreciate the absence of common redundancies and flabby expressions. This post, however, is the penultimate offering on the topic. Next, I’m going to be looking at expanding effective vocabulary by employing negative and/or positive words.

Live studio audience:

I can’t imagine anyone would perform before a dead audience; need I say more? e.g. The TV dancers performed before a live studio audience. Try: The TV dancers performed before a studio audience.

Past experience:

An experience is something that has been gone through; it is ‘past’ by definition. e.g. Her past experience had made her cynical about the promises of politicians. Try: Her experience had made her cynical about the promises of politicians. Or, better: Experience had made her cynical about politicians’ promises.

Passing fad:

A fad…

View original post 147 more words

Don’t Read This!


Don’t Read This

You Might Learn Something

by Deborah Owen

If you are a writer, it means you have courage! Every time you write, you’re revealing your deepest innermost feelings and attitude toward life. Not only that, you’re risking public judgment. Anyone who can face those odds can go the rest of the way and be published, but publication isn’t the end of your learning experience. It’s just the beginning.

Everything in life is a story that needs to be told. You still carry that small notebook, don’t you? The one you used to tell about the deer carcass on the road, the flashing ambulance and fire truck on their way to a wreck, the motorcycle club that held you up forever at an intersection, and the idiot with road rage. All of these are bits of a story yet to be told. Note them.

Learn from your “failed stories.” You know. The ones that didn’t sell. There is something to be learned from all of them. Reread them and ask yourself what is wrong with them. Are they wordy? Did you write yourself into a corner? Too many characters for the length of your story? (Two main characters and one or two more for flavor is all a 2,000 word story will comfortably hold.) Did your characters lack development? Did you force them to do something that went against their grain? Did you describe them so the reader could identify with them? Were your scenes in chronological order? Did you have enough conflict? Did the plot climax at least 2/3 of the way through? Did the middle sag? Spice those old stories up with alliteration, asyndeton, polysyndeton, similes, idioms, metaphors, and other advanced techniques. Don’t know what they are? Stay tuned. That’s what we’re going to study next.

When you hit a dead end, ask yourself two questions: what is the message of my story? How can I complicate the plot?

Don’t let your characters take the reins and write their own story. They will lead you places you don’t want to go. When that happens, stop and recapitulate. Roughly re-outline the story (you DID make an outline… right?) and follow it.

Remember your early writing days when you tried to decide whether ‘this sentence’ should go in ‘this’ paragraph or the next one? When you looked up the rules for ‘laying and lying,’ ‘further and farther,’ ellipses, quotations, italics, etc.? Remember your first story? Your first publication? Remember thinking how you would like to go to school, but it cost over $400 for a six-week course?

Now you can take that course. Creative Writing Institute offers eight-week courses with a private tutor for only $260. No money? We have a payment plan with no interest. And… well… we would do your homework for you, too, but it would be best if you put forth a little effort.  🙂

In Memory of my Dear Mother

It looks like 2016 came in with a roar. My son survived the fiery racing accident in February and still has 4-6 months of rehab, but my mother went to be with the Lord March 24. She was almost 98 years old, so I’m thankful I had her that long, but that doesn’t make the parting any easier.

In a few more days, I’ll get back to the business of writing and blogging, but for now I’d like to post these poems to honor Mom. I wrote them years ago but never showed them to her.

Quiet Gray by Deborah Owen

She got her way with temper fits

And maybe stretched the truth a bit

Made Dad so mad he could have spit

But made me laugh… she had such grit

– My Mom


Born without grace and no fanfare

She’d quiet us with just one stare

To say a word, we would not dare

Tender Paradox led in prayer

– My Mom


She’s older now, a quiet gray

We’ll have a docile Mother’s Day

Seems strange to have her now this way

To keep her long, that’s what I pray

– My Mom



 Hour Glass by Deborah Owen

She walks with halt and shuffling feet

Her high-step days are gone

A face of roadmap lines runs deep

Unpainted lips are drawn


But on each Mother’s Day I see

the mom who played with me

We baked mud pies and choc’late cakes

and topped them off with tea


Of childhood days I often think

to fill my heart with cheer

Of all the moms I could have had

She’s mine! My mother, dear.

Dorothy 97th B-day 6






Son Involved in Fiery Crash

Greetings, friends. I have never asked for a favor online but I’m asking now. My son was involved in a fiery racing accident and has third degree burns. He is in a burn unit and family is flying out to be with him. We were on vacation at the time and drove 1200 miles to get to him in San Antonio. He is in a great deal of pain, has busting headaches and is emotionally traumatized but we think he will survive. Not sure about surgeries yet.

It is a complicated situation. His car broke down in Dallas on the way to the race and we have no way to bring it to San Antonio (and we all live in Indiana). Car rental, food and motel bills are expensive. Someone we don’t even know set up a GoFundMe account on Facebook. God bless them. The response is awesome.

I have seen Stephen fill up gas tanks for total strangers. He would give anyone the shirt off his back. Now it’s his turn to receive a favor. Well, make that two favors.

(1) Please pray for all of us as we go through this very stressful time and (2) go to https://www.gofundme.com/9tvup97k. If you can donate, that would be awesome, but the main thing is to click the “f share” beneath the logo. You can do it in seconds. If you want to follow his progress, watch for my updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deborah.owen.31.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Friends like you are what keeps us going at a time like this. No mother should have to look at her burned child. It’s very hard and my strength is waning. Thank you, thank you and thank you again. We are grateful for your kindness.

I’ll get back to blogging asap.







A Simple Way to Tell Your Valentine, “I Love You”

by Mr. E. Lynn Carroll, Creative Writing Institute Tutor

My assignment was to write about unique ways to say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day. I looked, I Googled, I read, and I researched and what I found sounded so off the wall that I decided to just tell you what I do. If your beloved isn’t satisfied with the traditional gifting, try my simple solution.

I used to give my wife flowers on her birthday and being the practical, sensible Asian she is, she said, “Why you spend money on something I cannot eat, spend, or wear? These will die in a few days. You have foolishly wasted your money.”

Devastated, I determined to do better for Christmas, so I spent a lot of money on a nice winter coat. When she opened the present, she seemed happy. She never wore the coat. When I asked her why, being the practical, sensible Asian she is, she said, “It’s nice, but not something I would have bought.”

Doubly devastated, I gave up buying her anything for holidays, and being a stoic Asian, she never mentioned it. Nevertheless, I love her and for years, instead of buying presents, I gave her money. Still, I was unhappy. How could I solve this problem?

Now, my mother, being the acquisitive, materialistic, loving Western woman she was, brought me up to put all women on a pedestal, which is why I ended up snagged on these horns of hell. I wanted to please my wife, but material things didn’t do the job.

One Valentine’s Day, years ago, I thought about a Valentine’s card and a heart-shaped box of chocolates, but I knew it wouldn’t do. Tormenting my brain, the only thing I could come up with harkened back to grade school where we passed little notes to the girls we had a crush on. Thus, a new idea.

I decided to leave little personal love notes all over the house. Simple stuff like, “I love you. How much? The whole wide world.” I posted notes inside the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, under her windshield wiper… everywhere I knew she would look.

She went to work before I did, but I knew she had seen them because they were gone. When I got home that night, she had my favorite dinner, candles lit, soft music, and the whole Shtick. Bingo!

Over the years, I’ve fancied the cards up a bit. I print and cut out pictures of cute animals, beautiful scenes gleaned from online pictures, pictures of ourselves in happy poses, and then glued them to green Christmas tree shapes or red Valentine’s hearts cut out from colored construction paper, accompanied by little messages from my heart. It seems like the cornier the better.  🙂

You’re a writer! Try adding a little old-fashioned ingenuity this Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t cost a lot, it’s fun, and the rewards are amazing!

*Check out http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com for all your writing needs. The school where every student receives a private tutor! We give free writing evaluations, too!


Traveling thru Texas…

… and thinking of all the ways traveling applies to life and writing.

I’m on a new computer so I don’t have graphics today, but I thought I’d give you insight into my vacation as hubby and I travel America. We (hubby and I) left Indiana almost four weeks ago and are now in the great state of Texas, heading west in our RV (with a feral kitten on board… now folks, that is an experience!) and towing a Jeep. I can’t help but think of writing as I ponder the scenery.

Tumble-down houses that once shown bright with pride now sink into the dust. They remind me of writers who charge into the new year with great ambitions, only to find defeat another year. It’s better to seek a slower and more steady road. New Year’s resolutions and turning over a new leaf simply don’t work, but mapping out a plan by hand and rescheduling your time does!

I see bridges under construction and think of wannabe writers who are trying to restructure their lives, but don’t know how. If you fit in that category, I’ll give you one hint… ASK! I made a promise to myself a long time ago when a successful person wouldn’t give me the time of day. I promised I would never turn my back on a sincere writer asking for help. My email is DeborahOwen@CWinst.com, but if you won’t follow my advice, please don’t ask for it.  🙂  (My graphic for the day.)

Our vacation leads us through lush lands and desert, rough roads and smooth, ocean waters, lakes, ponds and streams. They remind me that I haven’t yet “arrived,” nor will I ever, because tomorrow I want to be better than I am today.

Horseback riders jog down the beach and through the forests, reminding me of my bumpy start in the field of writing. I wrote for ten years before I took a class. I had already written a novel and thought I should take at least one course before I sold it. LOL That one class served to teach me how much I didn’t know and almost overnight, I felt like I was drowning in the abyss. What a shocking reality! I didn’t know there were writing rules, that editors hang together like fleas, or that I should query nonfiction but not fiction. Yes, ignorance can truly be bliss, and the more I learned the more I saw how far I had yet to go. That’s okay. I have invested in a pair of good walking shoes.

Little trickles of streams empty into bigger streams that supply rivers that run to the ocean. There is no boundary on how far you can go if you have the persistence, steam and drive to get there.

Once upon a time, I submitted a writing analysis to xxx and thought to myself, They’ll tell me I have writing talent and then try to sell me classes. Well, sure enough, that’s exactly what they did. I scoffed at it, but somehow never threw that report away. A year or so ago I ran across that sample of writing and the report on it and you know what? They nailed it on the head! I do have talent and I did need those courses! Honest. No lie. (I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I had to become a writing school administrator to learn that.)

So now Creative Writing Institute offers honest and detailed free writing evaluations. Write a short story up to 1,700 words (no swearing, profanity, or adult scenes, please) in third person, past tense, and send it to me. It’s that easy. Mr. E. Lynn Carroll spends two hours analyzing stories and his reports are detailed and to the point, but be prepared. His job is not to pat you on the back and tell you how great you are, but rather to point out writing weaknesses and offer suggestions on how to improve.

And by the way, our newsletter offers a huge variety of articles and is perhaps the only newsletter that will start a new article just because you request it! Give it a try at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com (top right hand corner), and we’ll be looking for your sample story to evaluate. See you on down the road… and now that we are out of the desert and back into civilization and the world of the Internet, my posts will be regular.

*humming as I hunker down for the night near El Paso, TX…

*lights out

Deborah Owen