English Literature
Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction

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The Power of Short Stories: The Art of Flash Fiction

There's a famous joke that goes, "What's the shortest ghost story ever told?" The answer is simple and impactful: "The last man on Earth heard a knock at the door." This joke not only provides a punchline but also introduces us to the concept of flash fiction - a concise and powerful form of storytelling.

The term "flash fiction" was first coined in the 1990s, but its origins can be traced back to ancient times with Aesop's Fables. However, it wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that short stories gained popularity as a literary form of entertainment. For instance, Charles Dickens' novel Pickwick Papers (1836) featured many short stories told by different characters.

This trend continued into the 20th century with the publication of anthologies and collections of short works by renowned authors such as Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time (1925) and Somerset Maugham's Cosmopolitans: Very Short Stories (1936). Despite their brevity, these stories were able to convey complete narratives and evoke specific atmospheres.

For example, Hemingway's Chapter V from In Our Time is only a few hundred words long, yet it captures the intense emotions of a civil war execution. Similarly, Maugham's 'Appointment in Samarra' (1933) may be under 200 words, but it cleverly tells a story about Death and fate, with Death himself as the narrator.

With the rise of the internet, flash fiction has gained even more popularity. Many online platforms, such as Flash Fiction Online and Word Riot, feature monthly publications of new flash fiction pieces. This makes it a valuable medium for both established and emerging writers to showcase their work and connect with readers.

The Different Types of Flash Fiction

Flash fiction stories can be classified into various types based on their length:

  • Short story (up to 7,500 words)
  • Sudden fiction (around 1,000 words)
  • Short short story or flash fiction (up to 1,000 words)
  • Postcard fiction (250-500 words)
  • Micro-fiction (under 300 words)

A short story is generally considered to be around 7,500 words, while anything longer would fall into the categories of novellas, novels, or books.

For instance, Mark Twain's humorous piece, 'A Telephonic Conversation' (1880), is just over 800 words, making it a prime example of a short short story or flash fiction. H. H. Munro's 'The Open Window' (1911) is also classified as sudden fiction with its length of 1,214 words.

Then there are even shorter subcategories within flash fiction, such as postcard fiction. Kate Chopin's 'Dr Chevalier's Lie' (1891) is a perfect example at only 385 words. Her other story, 'Blind Man' (1897), with 755 words, could also be categorized as a short short story or flash fiction.

Lastly, micro-fiction can be divided into three categories:

  • Trabble: maximum or exactly 300 words
  • Drabble: exactly 100 words
  • Dribble or minisaga: exactly 50 words with a 15-character title

The drabble has even inspired more specific terms, such as pentadrabble (500 words) and double drabble or drouble (200 words). These categories demonstrate the diverse and creative ways in which writers can tell a complete and compelling story in a limited number of words.

In conclusion, flash fiction may be brief, but it has the power to convey a full narrative and evoke strong emotions. It is a valuable tool for writers to sharpen their skills and connect with readers. So next time someone asks for the shortest ghost story, you can impress them with your knowledge of flash fiction and its rich history.

The World of Microfiction: From Dribbles to Twitterature

Have you ever heard of a trabble? How about a dribble? These are just some of the terms used to describe microfiction, a form of storytelling that has gained popularity in recent years.

Take, for example, our mini ghost story from the beginning of this article. At less than 300 words, it could be considered microfiction. But it could also be classified as a dribble, as it is even shorter than 50 words!

Websites and magazines dedicated to microfiction have emerged, showcasing the art of telling a complete story in less than 500 words, or even just 55 words. This concept has even sparked a competition, 55Fiction, hosted by the New Times newspaper in California.

Discovering the Art of Microfiction

If you have a knack for storytelling, you may want to explore the world of microfiction. Submissions are open all year for stories of 55 words or less, and some of the most exceptional pieces have even been published in anthologies.

The editors at New Times have outlined the essential elements of a microfiction story, including setting, characters, conflict, and resolution. As an example, they share "Bedtime Story" by Jeffrey Whitmore:

"Careful, honey, it's loaded," he said, re-entering the bedroom. Her back rested against the headboard. "This for your wife?" "No. Too chancy. I'm hiring a professional." "How about me?" He smirked. "Cute. But who'd be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?" She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel. "Your wife."

Another group, Best Microfiction, curates and publishes annual anthologies of microfiction stories, with a maximum length of 400 words. In 2021, they were even awarded a Bronze Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The Inclusion of Microfiction in Fandom

Microfiction is not just limited to official publications; it has also found a home in fan communities. In the 1990s, media fandom adopted "drabbles" (stories of exactly 100 words) based on popular shows like The X-Files, Sherlock Holmes, and Blake's 7.

For instance, in 1998, The X-Files writer Brandon D. Ray wrote a 155-word story, sparking a trend for "155 word" fanfic stories. Sherlock Holmes fanfiction has its own unique form of microfiction, with stories of exactly 221 words, referencing the address of Sherlock Holmes' iconic residence, 221B Baker Street.

In the Blake's 7 fan community, there is a "7 x 7" challenge to write stories of exactly 49 words.

The Growing Popularity of Microfiction

The world of microfiction encompasses more than just stories of a few hundred words; it also extends to even shorter tales, such as six-word-stories, hint fiction, and twitterature.

One famous six-word-story is "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn." Although often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, there is no concrete evidence that he wrote it. However, this concept of condensing a story into six words has inspired others, like Robert Swartwood, to create anthologies of stories with a maximum length of 25 words, also known as "hint fiction".

Today, hint fiction has become a popular genre in its own right, with various websites dedicated to showcasing these short tales. Twitterature, a blend of Twitter and literature, includes poems and fiction with a maximum of 280 characters. Other genres, such as mini-sagas, dribbles, and drabbles, have also been given the Twitter treatment with hashtags like #Twiller and #Twaiku.

So, whether you prefer a trabble, a dribble, or a six-word-memoir, microfiction offers a whole new world of storytelling in just a few words.

Unveiling the World of Flash Fiction

In May 2009, Simon Brake won an interactive Twitter poetry contest with his entry:

"Beneath the Morning Sun,
The city is painted gold,
People move like bees through honey"

Throughout history, the short story has evolved into flash fiction - a brief yet impactful form of storytelling that continues to captivate and engage readers in our fast-paced world. Flash fiction, also known as sudden fiction, is a very short story that still manages to have characters and a plot despite its brevity.

The term "flash fiction" emerged in the 1990s, but the concept has been around since ancient times. Renowned authors such as Somerset Maugham, Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, and H.H. Munro (Saki) have all experimented with this unique style of storytelling.

Flash fiction can be categorized based on its length, such as short stories (up to 7,500 words), sudden fiction (usually a little over 1000 words), short short stories or flash fiction (up to around 1000 words), postcard fiction (between 250 and 500 words, or as much as can fit on a postcard!), and microfiction (usually under 300 words). Each of these subcategories presents its own rules and challenges, but they all strive to convey a concise message or idea to the reader.

The rise of social media platforms like Twitter has brought immense popularity to microfiction in recent years. With a limited character count, writers are compelled to be creative and make every word count. This challenge has led to the creation of even shorter forms of flash fiction, such as trabble (100 words), drabble (50 words), and dribble (10 words).

The Rise of Hint Fiction: How Flash Fiction Creatively Delivers Big Ideas in Just 25 Words

Flash fiction is a powerful and popular form of storytelling, with one unique variation known as "hint fiction." In this concise and challenging format, writers must convey a story in just 25 words, leaving readers to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

The beauty of hint fiction lies in its ability to suggest a bigger and more complex story in just a few words. With its brevity and impact, it is a perfect medium for delivering quick and convenient messages, emotions, and ideas to its readers.

This creative form of storytelling continues to thrive and evolve in our constantly changing world. Its concise nature makes it easily digestible in a fast-paced society, and its open-endedness allows for endless possibilities and interpretations.

Despite its short length, hint fiction packs a punch, leaving a lasting impact on readers. It encourages them to engage with the story and use their own imagination to fill in the gaps, making each reading experience unique and personal.

In today's digital age, where attention spans are shorter and time is limited, hint fiction provides a refreshing and captivating way to convey big ideas. It challenges writers to be creative and concise, and readers to be active participants in the storytelling process.

With its ability to deliver big ideas in just a few words, hint fiction has undoubtedly made a mark in the world of flash fiction. So the next time you're looking for a quick and thought-provoking read, give hint fiction a try and let your imagination fill in the gaps. Who knows what stories you'll uncover.

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