What is Microlit?

crot shorts

Short shorts/ microlit/ flash fiction/ microfiction/ very short stories, by any other name would be as… umm… short.

The deadline for the national Newcastle Writers’ Festival/Joanne Burns Award 2016 is gaining on us – 31st August. See details here.

That might seem like ages away when you only need 200 words but great microlit has its own set of challenges.

What are the main challenges of writing such short pieces?

  • An idea must be distilled into a ‘micro’-cosm, the essence of the idea that doesn’t lose its full flavour.
  • Just like longer works the short form needs time: time to think, write, rewrite, think again, revise, edit.
  • Every single word and phrase has to earn its place in the story, and most will carry more than one meaning.
  • Imagery is important to all writing, but none more than microlit. A single image can save you hundreds of words. Writing is a visual art; paint pictures with words.
  • Things don’t have to be explained, merely implied. This is the beauty of the form, that behind the words a whole world is peeping through.
  • The micro-story has to say something. There has to be some deeper resonance or narrative insight. There must be the feeling that something important happens, otherwise it’s an anecdote or vignette.
  • relinquish neatly tied-up conclusions for endings that keep the reader wondering about the story long after he/she reads the last word.

This post is already 50 words longer than the flash story you will enter in the competition. Did I mention the challenge of keeping to the word count?

So start writing now! Have fun and good luck!

 

 

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9 Responses to What is Microlit?

  1. anne says:

    Re image: I didn’t know you crotched, Karen. And, did those legs belong to Ross?
    On a more serious note, can the short short story be shorter than 200 words?

    • Definitely, Anne! A short short story can be anything between one and up to about 1,000. For this competition, though, the maximum is 200 words. That doesn’t mean you can’t enter something shorter but you have to consider you’re up against stories that will take full advantage of the extra words.
      Ha ha. And no, I don’t crotchet and those legs don’t belong to Ross.

      • anne says:

        Thanks, Karen. The piece I’m thinking about is approx 85 words. It’d lose strength with more words. I’d have to enter the nationwide comp because I don’t live in the Hunter Region so I imagine there’ll be plenty of competition. It’s just for fun. Will get me out there, now that ‘pumpkin”s finished. 🙂

      • Of course you should enter, Anne. Hemingway wrote one of the most powerful stories in 6 words:
        For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
        Any more words would be too many. Good luck!

  2. dianathrelfo says:

    Appreciate this post, Karen – has stimulated my thought processes although I am already striving to put one idea onto paper. Such a challenge!

  3. 200 words – that’s *twice* as many as Friday Fictioneers lol 😉

    Karen, I have never lost my love of micro-fiction (although I don’t restrain myself to a word count so much these days, unless it’s for a competition, and hence required) so I’m grateful I came across it back when you and I first met through FF.

    I find it a ‘nice little breather’ when I fancy a change from working on the novel. I particularly like it when Ron and I write ‘duets’. 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Joanna. I love writing and reading the form of micro-fiction, too. This story started out as a 100 word FF piece and I expanded and deepened it – yes, doubled it! I can remember the first time I read a ‘duet’ you and Ron wrote and the way the pieces played off each other. I was very impressed by them. Happy writing!

  4. Pingback: Big Journey of a Little Fiction | The Writers' Life

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