Should Flash Fiction have a beginning, middle and end?

Thanks to club member Preston Randall for this intriguing question. What are your thoughts?

Can you think of some examples of shortlisted flash fiction stories that have a beginning, middle, and end?  Examples that don’t have all three sections? What’s your preference? 

Many of the greatest poems are simply a moment in time, and don’t necessarily have a beginning, middle and end.  Should Flash Fiction be more like poetry or more like complete stories?  Should both formats be acceptable?

We look forward to hearing from our talented writers and readers!

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Allan Neil
Allan Neil(@allan-neil)
5 months ago

Yes. Ideally an brief intro, some meat, then, if it can be achieved, a sting! Failing the sting, an end that leaves one happy, sad or pensive.

Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
5 months ago

Flash Fiction is a complete story so therefore must have a beginning, middle and end. Some story websites even stipulate this is a requirement.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
Reply to  Margarida Brei
5 months ago

I think your last sentence is pertinent. Some sites stipulate it as a requirement, but perhaps that squashes some authors creativity. Others are more open. I think we have to allow for different styles sometimes. If we all wrote to particular rules I think the readers would perhaps get bored… Read more »

Preston Randall
Preston Randall(@preston-randall)
5 months ago

I’ve always felt it to be more impactful or satisfying when there is some form of beginning, middle and end. I still appreciate good descriptive writing that doesn’t follow this format, but have noticed some stories in this site that I think would benefit from a more defined structure. As… Read more »

Preston Randall
Preston Randall(@preston-randall)
Reply to  Voice-Team
5 months ago

This is excellent! Thanks so much.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
5 months ago

My answer, and my preference, is influenced by the number of movies I’ve watched, each having a beginning, middle and end. Although some of the most memorable actually begin at the end followed by flashbacks… ‘All About Eve’ and ‘Double Indemnity’ come to mind. So, yes, I do believe flash… Read more »

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
5 months ago

I think that, in essence, flash fiction does need all three but, as with any story, the ending can be left so that it leaves your audience wondering a little. I think that, sometimes, a reader will think more about a story after they’ve finished it if there are still… Read more »

Melissa Taggart
Melissa Taggart(@melissa-taggart)
5 months ago

I hate to be that person but… yes and no. I do appreciate that it is more impactful or satifying with a beginning, middle and end. With that being said, leaving the reader to use thier imagination isn’t necessairly a terrible thing… Those that continue their flash in parts is… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Melissa Taggart
Preston Randall
Preston Randall(@preston-randall)
Reply to  Melissa Taggart
5 months ago

I don’t disagree, but you’ve also brought up an interesting point. Personally, I would consider a flash fiction in instalments to be in a separate category from “regular” flash fiction. However, regarding the ending, I think that leaving some sort of mystery or openness to interpretation often adds a richness… Read more »

Melissa Taggart
Melissa Taggart(@melissa-taggart)
Reply to  Preston Randall
5 months ago

Thanks for your comment. I still believe flash fiction in installments to be flash, nevertheless. I only used it as an example because there are writers on this site that have done just that. I see a real plus for having things left somewhat open-ended for this very reason. Just… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Melissa Taggart
Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
5 months ago

Once I would have said that all stories need the start, middle and end but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t left a few open endings in some more recent stories. It sounds like I’m sitting on the fence but it really does depend on the story. Sometimes… Read more »

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
5 months ago

One lovely aspect of being creative artists is that each one of us can form our own ideas of what Flash Fiction should be and write accordingly. In my world view, Flash Fiction is an art form in a class by itself – not just watered-down, words-deleted versions of longer… Read more »

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
Reply to  Fuji
5 months ago

Thanks for the reminder of that fun story. It was great to read it again! I’m afraid that if I was in Angelica’s place, I would have to fall. Now, is that an ending or a new beginning. I love how playful and creative we can be, stretching those muscles.… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Carrie OLeary
Preston Randall
Preston Randall(@preston-randall)
Reply to  Fuji
5 months ago

Thanks, Fuji, for your extremely interesting thoughts on this. As I’m reading through all the comments, it occurs to me that we all have very different ideas about what constitutes a “beginning,” “middle” and “end” – none of which are “wrong.” For example, I read through “Trouble in Paradise” which… Read more »

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
Reply to  Preston Randall
5 months ago

Well, well, Preston – you have me looking at my own stories differently. I think you are right – we probably all have different ideas of what a “beginning”, “middle” and “end” really are. And no doubt, all of our ideas are correct! Each of us can decide for each… Read more »

Preston Randall
Preston Randall(@preston-randall)
Reply to  Fuji
5 months ago

You’re very welcome, Fuji! It’s so refreshing to be able to have such an interesting and open discussion in a safe, non-toxic environment. Regarding “Baby Shoes”: Yes, I do feel it has a beginning, middle and end in the following sense. “For Sale” sets the scene and creates tension. “Baby… Read more »

Emily O'Leary
Emily O'Leary(@emily-oleary)
Reply to  Fuji
5 months ago

Love these examples Fuji! I’m with the majority in that I believe it can be perfect either way. Writing is art and, at least in my case, I think we write primarily for ourselves! Whilst there is something really satisfying about having a nicely wrapped story, I personally love open… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Emily O'Leary
Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
Reply to  Fuji
5 months ago

I too remember this story, Fuji! As I do so many of yours. I have to agree with Preston’s response, as it struck me too that there was a beginning, middle and end to it. I guess we all do view these definitions differently.

Henry Vinicio Valerio Madriz
Henry Vinicio Valerio Madriz(@henry-vinicio-valerio-madriz)
5 months ago

Both are “correct” since in writing there is no right and wrong, there is work. Let’s remember that an author writes BECAUSE not FOR. Ergo, an author writes because s/he has a need to express herself/himself and present her/his work to the world to enjoy it, not to evaluate it… Read more »

Joseph Domino
Joseph Domino(@joseph-domino)
5 months ago

I absolutely believe every story needs a beginning, middle and end. That is what makes Flash Fiction so challenging. Every word counts. You can describe a picture but if you do not include how it makes the viewer feel, think and act, half the story is missing.

Thompson Emate
Thompson Emate(@thompson-emate)
5 months ago

I think that every writer should be left to flow with his creative style. Although stories with a beginning, middle and end give a wrapped package, open-ended stories are also a delight. I love situations when I’m left to peruse a story. I have some issues with editors where they’re… Read more »

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