What Makes a Good Story?

Maybe you’ve been wondering what our editors will be looking for once we start reading entries for our anthology competition that launches October 14th. Here are our short takes on what makes a good (flash) story. We hope this helps!

Sara Chansarkar Siddiqui – An effective flash must be a singular story, not a confused muddle of tales criss-crossing each other. Though layering is a fine technique, it should be used carefully in this form of short fiction.

Neil Clark – A good story is a mad experiment gone right. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be pure whacky – general rules of storytelling (and editing!) still broadly apply. But there’s so much flash fiction out there, the stuff that stands out for me is the stuff where the writer has taken a risk at some point.

Tara Isabel Zambrano – In my opinion, a good flash has to handle all the artistic elements of characters, setting, plot, conflict in a limited space with a nice spread of language, imagery and rhythm, even surprise that doesn’t look clever, but something the writer has been building from the first sentence itself.

Jason Jackson – A great story will have at least most of the following: a title which does some heavy lifting; the rhythms of great poetry; striking, original, sensory, concrete images; the tension of a snare; a beginning so close to the end that it’s part of it; an ending which is another beginning; a moment after which things can no longer be the same; a character who lives that moment to the full; no sign of an author saying, ‘hey, look at me!’: the purposeful clarity of an arrow through the heart.

Cheryl Pappas – A great flash uses taut, evocative language. Every sentence should earn the white space that follows. I want to feel suspended when reading, my breath held in. I want to feel something by the end.

Tim Craig – The stories I enjoy the most seem to work like the best Beatles songs(!) Deceptively simple of language and narrative, often with a whiff of irony, humour or the absurd, but which leave you with a lasting sense of having experienced a powerful emotional connection, even if you can’t quite explain what it is.

Janice Leagra – For me, a good story is about change, either big or small, and how that change is achieved. A flash fiction story is also about focus, zeroing in on a moment that illustrates that change. It’s important to start in medias res, put enough on the page to be emotionally resonant, but leave enough off the page to give room to your reader, especially with the ending. I love a strong voice and a story that takes risks without it coming across as showboating. Less is more.