Micro-Fiction – Writing the Short Short Story

Flash Fiction Online celebrates the art of writing flash fiction and short stories within the constraint of 1,000 words. I think most of us, if not all, can agree that flash fiction pieces that are written well manage to follow a momentous tale from beginning to end seamlessly, in which a character shows growth/change.

What about Micro-fiction or stories that are less than 1,000 words?

Let’s say a few sentences at most, can they have an entire movement too?

I read this great list on BuzzFeed about 17 stories you can read now. Micro-fiction, short shorts, wonderful tiny stories!

Here are what some of the Managing Editors and Flash Fiction Online staff had to say about writing short fiction and micro-fiction in particular:

“I think these really short flash stories work because they find a way to tap into universal emotions using some kind of short cut; through a common image, behavior, experience, or language with which most people are familiar. The words chosen are simple, but precise, and a great deal is left to the reader’s imagination through their own experiences. So, the story is grounded in the familiarity, the emotions that tend to accompany that, and then the author twists the story away from our expectations with some new idea or emotion.

Some twists are bigger than others, like #1 and #5. With Hemingway’s flash story, we start with nostalgia about childhood and family, and end with a tragedy. A similar thing with Merilee Faber’s “Love is Forever,” it starts with young romance but ends unexpectedly with tragedy. With the last one, “Widow’s First Year” by Joyce Carol Oates, there’s a much smaller twist. We expect grief from the title, but we also get perseverance and survival.”

-Denise Ganley

“I’ve dabbled very briefly in stories this short. Okay, once. Some of these are more complete as stories than others, which begs the question, ‘ What exactly is a story?’ To me a story consists of a plot with a resolution. In some of these, plot and resolution are non-existent. So are they still stories? Is something of 10,000 words without plot or resolution a story?

Of these given examples, the ones that work, for me at least, are the ones in which plot and resolution are there, though deeply implied. They have to be. There is no room for overt setting or situational or character development. However, the story can’t be SO deeply implied that the story has no meaning.


Glasses on an opened book
Can you imagine “Pride & Prejudice” written in under 300 words? How about Tolstoy or Stoker? We dare you to give it a try in the comments section. Don’t lose the intensity. Just the word count.

So some of these stories work for me as stories. Others fall into the category of vignette, which can be a joy to read, as satisfying as great poetry or masterworks of the visual arts, but, arguably, aren’t really stories.

Hemingway’s classic ‘baby shoes’ is a perfect example of the micro-story that works. It cuts straight to the heart and accomplishes by implication a massive and multi-layered story of heartbreak and love, of a lifetime lived with struggle and triumph, loss and acceptance. For me, no matter the length of the story, that’s what matters–that a story makes me feel deeply. Whether with a single word or a hundred thousand.

I applaud authors who take up the challenge of doing that in as few words as possible. No author can understand how much of a challenge that is or the depth to which it can improve his writing in general unless he’s given it a try.

For the record, my story was, ‘All I said was, ‘Nice sweater.'”

-Suzanne Vincent (Editor-In-Chief)

I think these micro-fiction stories work because they convey emotions vividly. In flash fiction pieces this short, the urgency to be punchy is heightened and what better way to make something resonate then by making the reader feel?

These stories also leave you with questions, so many questions that the mystery alone about what the possible answers can be, fill in the empty space that the lack of words may leave behind. The empty white space is a tempting creature that allows room for interpretation and in these short shorts, it’s a beautiful thing.

How do you feel about micro-fiction?

Have any of your own you’d like to share?


Mahjabeen Syed



Mahjabeen Syed graduated with her BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is attempting to make it into the big leagues of writing. She resides in Chicago; the city of beauty and homicide but refuses to acknowledge it as, “Chi-raq.” She runs a blog titled, The Magic of Writing for ChicagoNow, primarily giving writing tips from professionals while other times ranting about why it’s so awkward for women to eat a banana while driving. She enjoys reading with her cat (singular) and insists that she is not a crazy cat lady because she has only one which makes her just plain old crazy.