Really Short Stories
In a Current Comment item in the America issue of March 2, 2008, the editors commented on “microfiction,” the venerable subgenre of fiction that forsakes the traditional short story length, usually multiples of thousands, in favor of extremely brief tales that are sometimes even less than one hundred words. Also known as “flash fiction,” “sudden fiction” and “short shorts,” microfiction normally includes the typical elements of a short story but has to achieve much by allusion, implication and evocation of outside elements. In the Current Comment item, the editors referenced what is perhaps American literary history’s most famous example of microfiction, Ernest Hemingway’s six-word short story: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Few facts are present in that sentence, but the reader’s imagination fleshes out the tale in rapid fashion, conjuring up a protagonist, a conflict, and a resolution without much effort.
In an era when many people do their reading in front of a computer rather than in front of a crackling fire (pace Amazon.com’s new “Kindle” electronic reader), microfiction will only grow in popularity, since its format is ideally suited to the single page and the quick read. Some online stories and helpful tips about reading and writing microfiction are linked below, as well as two journals devoted to microfiction and its literary cousins.