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Flash Fiction vs Short Story:Key Differences and Similarities

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In a write up looking at the differences between Flash Fiction and shorts story we should not forget that they are both fiction.

On the sole basis that they are both fiction leads to a lot of similarities.

But we will be looking at the differences in this blogpost.

Flash Fiction differs from short story since both are different in form and  the confines of words.

While short story is more popular than flash fiction owing to a lot of reasons as we would see later on.

In each comparison where possible I would give an example to support the differences.

Note: when giving a comparison like this it is important for you to know a few things before we go on.

All differences is a statement of the typical and majority of the form.

This is not to deny the outliers and examples ( stories) that do not reflect these features.

It does not mean that these are set standards you have to fit your work into.

Having given the disclaimer let’s proceed.

1.Definition

Before we go into the other differences let’s examine the diffferences in the definition of both terms ( flash fiction and short story).

Short story is a form of fiction that spans between 1500 words and 7500 words and sometimes extending into ten thousand words. It is a complete story with the fictional characteristics plot, conflict, characters,setting, theme etc.

It does not mean that anything that happens to fall within this range is a short story.

For it to be a short story it has to do two main things.

  • Be Short: Within 1500 to 10,000 words.
  • Be a Story: Have the fictional elements.

Flash Fiction is a story that is between 300 and 1000 words and other times extending into 1500.

Although sometimes flash fiction is used as an umbrella word for the subset genre which is Microfiction ( 6 words to 300 words).

The same principle that applies to short story applies to flash fiction. The story has to be flash ( in terms of length 300 to 1000 words) and have the elements of fiction.

2. Word Count ( Length)

I spoke about this mildly in the the definition.

Short Story is between 1500 words and 10,000 words.

Flash fiction is between 300 to 1000 words. And it some times stretches to 1500 words.

3. Popularity

In general look we know that short story is more popular than flash fiction but how do we know and prove that Short Story is more popular than flash fiction.

We would use a tool called Google Trends to make this comparison

A quick info on what Google Trends is and how it is relevant.

Google is the largest search engine 

Trends is a tool that looks at the number of searches done overtime with the exact search Term ( word) and around the terms .

Questions that are related to the search Term in order to gauge the growth or decline over time.

  • Search 

This looks at the individual keywords

  • Flash Fiction
  • Short story 

In this case we are considering searches with only these keywords.

  • Topic

This is a look at the overall search of these words as a literary genre not only based on the exact word but considering other related searches online.

  • Age 

Over time the movement from the largevforms has been from the novel than to novella and to shortstory before moving to flash fiction. This has led to shortory more popularity than flash fiction.

From the comparison Google trends graph of the flash fiction and short story genres in the past 12 months we see that short story is way popular than Flash Fiction.

While using Semrush to give an estimate of the number of people searching for these terms

  • Flash Fiction: 32,700 
  • Short Story: 315,500

4. Reading Time ( Length)

Considering the definition I  gave we know that short story would take longer to read compared to flash fiction.

The average word per minute for an average reader is 250 words .

This brings Short Story to the average reading length to six minutes to as long as forty minutes.

While flash fiction can take between one minute and four minutes.

5. Writing Time (Length)

When it comes to writing fiction it can take as long as it can from brewing the idea allowing it to incubate,form and develop in our minds.

After the ideation comes the writing and drafting of the story.

From drafting we progress into editing and this can take another time. The story doesn’t click yet.

All this time varies.

When I talk about the writing time I am talking about the one sitting drafting time for the story.

Using the typing speed of an average person 40 wpm. 

6. Characters

The people in the story. For every character we bring into the story we need to give the reader heads up on the characters

Short story can take one more characters and develop these characters well enough

While flash fiction stays with less number of characters.

Examples of stories to see this in action 

  • Sticks by George Saunders (Flash Fiction)
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver

7. Settings

This refers to the place and time of the story.

Generally short story has more settings because it can afford to with the number of words available but there are also short stories that take place in one place

Flash Fiction due to its word count does not change setting as frequent as in a short story.

This is because with every change of setting is words used to introduce the setting.

These are words that could be spent of the plot.

8. Plot

The plot is the sequence of events happening in a story.

Think of the plot as the what of your story.

The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.

E. M. Forster

Flash Fiction has a simpler plot as it doesn’t have the words to reeally establish such plot.

Short Story can take on more complex plots.

Note that the complex plot here refers to the comparison of flash fiction and short story. When you compare the plot of a short story to that of a novel we see that even the plot of a short story is simpler.

9. Theme

Most times people say that flash fiction is a GIf while short story is video. I  disagree.

To me short story is a short film while flash fiction is a shorter film.

Considering the word count available to short story genre we can go deeper into a particular theme usually exploring other subthemes.

Flash Fiction usually takes a snapshot of the theme.

10. Time

I have talked about different time:reading time and writing time.

The time and referring to is the time the story spans the time of the story. 

For example a story could be five minutes to decades.

Short story can span from a day to years in terms of the timeline of the story. The story passes into another time.

Flash Fiction usually is a flash, snapshot. If it does move from year to year it is usually a time travel. A jump into another time.

Infographic

Conclusion

Over time the art of fiction has moved from the novel to Microfiction what we see is a gradual decrease in popularity from short story to flash fiction.

This is owing to the adoption of the genre and the different period official recognition of the genres.

With time new magazines are emerging as with contests and great readers of the genre.

We should not also forget that writers are exploring and experimenting with the forms.

We have seen the differences between short stories and flash fiction.

If you have any questions do let me know in the comments section.

Flash fiction and Short story Similarities 

Oftentimes the words flash fiction and short story are used interchangeably to refer to one another.

For example, a short story is used as an umbrella word to include both short stories specifically and stories with less Word count than short story used to refer to less.

In many ways, a short story is different from flash fiction but they are all stories in this regard they are similar.

I decided to look at the various similarities that I present to you.

Let’s get started.

Is a flash Fiction a short story

Flash Fiction is a form of fiction that is different from the short story. It is used to refer to forms of fiction within 300 to 1000 words.

However, a short story is also used as a category name that covers both short stories and all other forms of fiction with a word count less than that of a short story.

Why are Short Stories Similar to Flash Fiction 

Flash fiction and short stories differ in many ways due to word count.

Both flash fiction and short stories are similar because they are both fiction. This one characteristic leads to other similarities.

Flash Fiction and Short Story Similarities 

1.Fiction

Short stories and flash fiction are both a form of fiction however long they may be.

Fiction is a story that is not real,but imagined.

You can take inspiration from real life , but the story the reader knows is not fact.

2. Character

Both short stories and flash fiction have characters.

The number may vary but there would always be character (s) in each form.

3. Setting

A setting is where the story is set.

To put another way it is the place and time the story happened.

Short stories have settings as the story progresses the setting might change depending on the story but there is always setting.

Flash fiction sometimes gives a hint on the setting and allows you to imagine the other parts into being. Most times it is an adequate introduction of the setting.

4. Conflict

Without conflict there is no story. Conflict is what makes a story. 

Both short story and flash fiction because they are a form of fiction that has conflict.

5. Theme

The theme is the central idea of the story.

Whether it is subtle or bold there is always a form of theme in a story.

6. Plot

The plot is the sequence of events in a story. The complexity varies from short story to flash fiction.

Since plot answers the what of the story, you will always find an answer in both forms.

Conclusion

Flash Fiction and short story are similar since they are both fiction but they are not the same.

If you say they are the same it means that the words

  • Short Story
  • Flash Fiction

Can be used interchangeably without any difference. They are not synonyms.

Since flash fiction is carving out  a name for itself and the short story was a name used for all.

It would take some time before the similarities and differences becomes clear.

What other similarities do you think flash and shortstory have.

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments section.


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By Onyemechi Nwakonam

Hi ,I write poetry and short prose. I am excited to help you organise your writing journey.

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