One of my personal favorite types of stories to write is microfiction. Not only are the little buggers challenging to construct, an excellent substitute for free writing and decent stress relief, they’re also lots of fun, especially when several writers are working off the same prompt. Despite not having a universally established word count, you’ve probably tried your hand at microfiction at least once. But if you’re anything like me, you tend to forget these short shorts exist. It’s kind of a hazard of writing fantasy. When we sit down to tell a story, we’re having to build everything from the ground up, to explain not only our characters and what’s happening but their environment and sometimes its history too, and that simply takes a longer story.
Today I want to make a case for not only keeping the art of microfiction in your repertoire, but also utilizing it frequently. First though, because there isn’t a well established way to identify the word count associated with each name (which includes flash fiction, sudden fiction, postcard fiction and short short stories), here’s how I break it down:
Microfiction – less than one typed page in Times New Roman 12 point font
100 word shorts – literally 100 words or less, not including the title
Short shorts – two pages or less, in the same formatting as microfiction
Short story – anything over a short short, but smaller than a novella (which is usually between 17,000 and 40,000 words)
Keep in mind that if you’re ever in the market to be submitting a piece of microfiction, each contest or publication will have their own criteria which should be respected. And if there aren’t specifics, you could always ask if you’re able to. Failing that it’s probably safe to assume they’re leaving “microfiction” open to interpretation.
So now, why should you as a writer of short stories and novels be messing around with the short short… short.. shortes? (See what I did there? Teehee.)
Change of pace – this is most often my reason. When you’ve been struggling with your current work in progress for a couple of hours and are getting frustrated, but don’t want to break your stride, I prefer writing a quick couple 100 word shorts to free writing or even bubble graphing.
Exercise in precision – when you have 100 words to tell a story, every single word counts. That restriction forces you to cut unnecessary material and make more descriptive word choices. It also teaches you to prioritize what elements you want present because you don’t have space to have secondary descriptions or dialogue.
Creates collaboration – looking for a way to get a few writer friends in on one project? Microfiction is perfect.
Build reader interest and author platform – readers love excerpts. They love getting a taste and having their appetite whet. While microfiction is generally one shot material, these pieces can still give your readers an idea of your writing style and peak their interest in your other materials.
Stretching your writing skills – has anyone ever advised you that once in awhile you should read something you wouldn’t normally? The same advice holds true for writers. If writing microfiction isn’t something you do regularly, it can be an exercise in expanding your comfort zone and your technique.
Stress relief – I was hesitant to put this one on the list, because on the surface microfiction looks like a lot of work, as detailed above. But when you consider that when you’re done working on it, your mind isn’t stuck in the same rut that it was before, I think it counts.
Tons of fun – when all else fails, approach microfiction as something you won’t critique yourself on; let it be a judgement free zone. You’ll be surprised by some of the ideas you have when you’re not trying to mentally tailor them to your story or your audience. It might be just what you need to remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place. 😉
And in keeping with the collaboration point, here are a couple of microfiction prompts. If you do use one of them, I’d love to check out the resulting stories. Peace, guys. ❤
Prompt 1: You and he agreed on three meeting places in case of emergency. You’re about the enter the last one.
Prompt 2: His voice brought back memories of dark rooms and broken bones.