2018 Flash Fiction Competition
Judge: David Gaffney
Closing date: 31st May 2018
Part of the nationwide Get Creative Festival
We are looking for entries with a maximum of 300 words (excluding title).
The competition is open to anyone over 18.
Please read The Rules before entry.
Entry: £5 per flash fiction
The WINNING Flash Fiction will receive a £150 prize.
The top Eight Flash Fictions will be published online on The Casket of Fictional Delights.
The top Four Flash Fictions will be professionally recorded and broadcast as a special audio podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, TuneIn and Stitcher.
Ask the judge: Q&A with David Gaffney
Our judge, David Gaffney, is a prominent flash fiction author and expert, previously a Bridport Prize judge, perfectly placed to find the very best of our entries.
What do you look for in a flash fiction?
When I am reading a flash fiction piece I look for something that drops me right into a different world full of different people and different ways of thinking and living which I didn’t know about before.
I do not expect to understand it at first. I expect to be a little confused. I hope to be a little confused. I will expect to have to read it again, and maybe again after that. And the feeling I want to have after finishing it is a feeling that I have understood something I didn’t understand before but I still don’t really know what it is.
“I hope to be a little confused. I will expect to have to read it again, and maybe again after that.”
Look at the condensed elliptical nature of powerful song lyrics – such as ‘Wichita Lineman’ and more recently I was listening to a lyric by an artist called Cass McCombs, a song called ‘I’m A Shoe’. These songs tell you everything about what the characters are feeling and nothing about what they are feeling. Flash fiction is probably the opposite of a good newspaper article. Think of it that way and also think of the title that way – a title should be the type of title that a sub editor would use to grab attention. If a title tells you everything about the story, then it’s probably the wrong title.
Is there anything people should avoid?
I would avoid too much exposition in the first line, avoid starting with dialogue possibly. And avoid a punch line or ‘pull back to reveal’ ending. I would avoid too many characters and probably avoid too many complicated flashbacks and flash-forwards.
In content terms I would avoid the following themes:
- Stories about people swallowing live fish and choking;
- Stories about a man forcing his wife to smile all the time while she is walking down the street on her own in case a work colleague drives past and sees her and concludes he isn’t making her happy;
- Stories about a man who has one fingernail polished at lunchtime as part of a promotional campaign;
- Stories about a man putting slices of raw swede through another man’s letterbox;
- Stories about a woman who invents a special type of soup which has different emotional effects on the consumer.
Have you any other advice for people?
You probably have a premise you want to start with. I would start by explaining the premise, build a story around that and then take the premise away. Here’s another trick; design a joke around a particular punchline then write the set up for the joke as a short story but don’t include the punchline.
Make yours a winning Flash Fiction
- Read or Listen to last year’s winning stories
- Open The Casket’s Flash Fiction Toolkit
- Tell us what you’re up to on social media by using the hashtag #FindYourStory