Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who Wears Short Shorts?

 A while ago I talked about cell phone novels, which were really big in Japan and Europe, but the fledgeling market just wasn't growing in the United States (for many reasons).  I've started having some fun with very short fiction, which I find incredibly challenging.

Can you tell a story in one sentence?  How about six words or less?  500 words? 1,000 words?

I have trouble even fitting an entire story into a short story (1,000-7,500 generally, depending on publisher's guidelines).  There is so much I want the reader to know and to experience!  A recent foray into short stories churned out a 3,600 word behemoth that isn't anywhere near finished.  I see the word count creeping up and the limit of 7,500 words looming, and my stomach retreats into my backbone in absolute terror!

So you can imagine my response when I was told that some people (even Mark Twain!) write stories in under 1,000 words... sometimes even as little as 500 or (eeep!) 300.  It's called "short short fiction", "microfiction" or "flash fiction".  I absolutely adore the term "flash fiction".  It evokes a sense of superheroine power in being able to cram an entire story into that few words.  Don't be fooled by it's length, though--the stories still have a beginning, middle and an end.  A lot is left to the reader's imagination, of course.

I suppose this is why I view these as a challenge--to allow my readers to use their imaginations.  Oh the horrors!  They might not imagine the face of my main character exactly as I do, or be able to see their favorite pair of jeans the way I can... but you know what?  They'll live.  This could be a great exercise in cutting the fat for me.  So let's cut some fat!

If you're interested in reading more flash fiction online, or even giving it a try yourself:

Flash Fiction Online
Every Day Fiction
The First Line
FlashFiction.net