In the author bios I submit to literary magazines with my stories, I often include a line that says I’m driven to “capture moments of human vulnerability.” Let me help you visualize what I mean. Think of a photograph that exposes a person in a moment of terror, grief, or jubilation. It’s a moment so private that it feels like you shouldn’t be looking, and yet you can’t look away.
With flash fiction, you have to hone this skill of creating an emotional connection with the reader and tell a story in a finite space. Writing characters in their most private moments is an effective way of achieving this. It can be a moment people don’t often see in public, but with which they can relate because it’s similar to something they’ve experienced. But this is not a tip limited to flash fiction.
Think about your own personal experiences that are so deeply personal that you keep them hidden inside, rarely, if ever, giving them a voice. That’s what you should be writing about. That is what readers will connect with in your story. The setting and characters can be dazzling and enticing to a reader, but it’s the emotion that hints at your own personal experience that will make your writing linger.
Your writing doesn’t have to be the exact same situation, it just has to touch on the emotion. When I first started struggling with how to write my author bios, I remember thinking, people just need to read my writing. That’s the best way to get to know me. There are pieces of me throughout every piece I’ve written. The pieces are wrapped in a fictitious story, but it all came from me. For example, if there’s grief in a story, that comes from a very deep well that I carry with me always. So when my characters are stricken with the loss of a loved one, I feel for them because it came from a real place in me and morphed into his or her tale.
So the advice is two-fold. Catch your characters in a vulnerable moment, and be vulnerable in using your emotional experiences to dig into your characters.