Flash Memoir: Writing Short-Form Nonfiction

Flash Memoir

Flash fiction has become increasingly popular in the last decade, but did you know the “flash” movement can be applied to almost any genre?

Flash writing of any kind will flex your creative muscles—it forces you to tell a meaningful story in less than 1,000 words. It is a unique, adaptable, and fun form that can be applied to almost any genre or type of writing. Even memoir!

What is Flash Memoir?

The only requirement to writing in the memoir genre is to tell a unique, personal story only you can tell. Memoirs require writers to dig deep into their life and to come up with scenes that bring the reader into their world.

While memoirs are typically novel-length, the flash memoir, or flash nonfiction, is generally 1,000 words or less. The popular “memoir essay” is an essay-length memoir that clocks in at about 2,000 to 6,000 words. But with flash memoir, writers have considerably less space.

While full-length memoirs are a slice of life, flash memoir is more like a sliver. It is a freeze-framed moment, a single snapshot. Flash memoir particularly lends itself to our more fragmented memories and scene-based writing. It provides us the opportunity to look at a small moments in time and delve deeper into what happened and what it meant to us.

Flash memoir centers on defining a moment and delivering a “flash” of insight. This could be a defining moment of change, an epiphany, a “first” in your life, or any number of meaningful life experiences.

Why Try Flash Memoir?

When in doubt, start short. Short stories, or short-form writing, provide the perfect avenue to practice your craft on a small, manageable scale. They are easier to accomplish and much less demanding than a long-form novel or full-length memoir. These short pieces can then become strong foundations for longer works. You may find yourself writing small vignettes that are actually building blocks to larger scenes and chapters.

The Chopping Block

Short-form writing allows you to explore a topic quickly and forcefully—meaning that you must get to the point without meandering or getting lost in rabbit holes. The narrowed scope of flash memoir particularly focuses your writing. Writers are forced to be concise, specific, and alert to the most important details. It’s a great way to practice “killing your darlings,” or getting rid of unnecessary descriptions, characters, or storylines. With only 1,000 words, there isn’t much room for extraneous details or internal musings.

Magnify the Small

At the heart of every memoir, there is a deeper truth that resonates beneath the external events of the story. The brief form of flash memoir forces you to explore the deeper truth of your experience and bring it to the surface very quickly—in less than 1,000 words.

Particularly, the flash form lends itself to writing about specific, concrete objects that have a memory attached to it. Writers of flash memoir often use objects or sensory details as an entry point into memories or experiences.

Flash memoir is akin to taking a magnifying glass and holding it over an ant. Suddenly, the ant is large and in clear detail. Essentially, flash memoir allows you to take something small and magnify it with concrete, specific details.


The word count constraint of “flash” writing is challenging—but sometimes rules can force our creativity to flourish in unexpected ways! Are you going to give flash memoir a try?

Visit Brevity: A Concise Journal of Literary Nonfiction if you would like to explore published flash memoirs.

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