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Monday, February 15, 2010

Mystic Monday

Short Fiction

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so I hope everyone enjoyed the day.

A moment of silence for the Olympian who lost his life in a luge crash this past weekend.


Now I feel like I can go on with my day and my blog. In honor of the Olympics, I thought I would talk about a couple different types of short fiction. There are weird names and word counts to boot!

We'll start small and work our way up.

The smallest works to be considered fiction get their names from their word count. There's 55 Fiction which began as a writing contest in 1987. It's a story of exactly 55 words. The title is not included in this total but cannot be more that 7 words.

Then there's the 69er which has it's roots in a Canadian publication, NFG. This has, you guessed it, 69 total words excluding the title.

Next comes the fiction story with my favorite name, The Drabble. The Drabble has exactly 100 words, no more, no less, title excluded. Rumor has it the Dribble is a 50 word story and a Drouble is a 200 word story.

Who could possibly want stories this short? Well, besides magazine contests, these types of short fiction pieces are very popular in Sci-fi culture.

This brings us up to Flash Fiction, a story ranging in length from 300 to 1000 words in length not including the title and finds it's beginnings roughly in 1992 as an anthology with the same name intended to give readers stories that fit in two facing pages - roughly 750 words. With the advent of the Internet, this type of fiction is fast growing in its appeal.

What can short fiction do for you?

Well, if you're struggling to focus on your writing or need to hone your tight writing skills, these types of challenges can help you do that.

If you find yourself having difficulty with them or aren't quite sure how to approach them, think of it this way.

A novel is made up of all kinds of moments tied together, creating a continuous string of moments that compose a story. Each of these individual moments can be taken out of context and viewed as Flash Fiction. Therefore, Flash Fiction is a scene or a moment in time with characters, a beginning, middle and end.

How can Flash Fiction help you write a story?

Well, since a novel is basically a long string of moments, and Flash Fiction is a single moment, you can consider a novel to be one long string of continuous Flash Fiction pieces.

So, writing one Flash Fiction piece can lead to another and another and another.

Flash Fiction can also help you tighten up your writing. If you pick a specific word length, such as 500 words and make each moment exactly 500 words, it will teach you how to pick the right words. If you find that your moments are less than 500, try to get those pieces closest to the next lowest words count such as 450 or even as low as 400. These lower limits will force you to find the one word to take the place of five or six and eliminate unnecessary words.

While there are all kinds of Flash Fiction pieces for you to read through and learn from, I thought I would offer up one of mine I wrote for a creative writing class. This is a shorter piece (265 words), but it should give the idea of how important word choice and imagery are in a piece like this:

The Dream Room
by Carrie Hinkel-Gill

She wakes up, reaches out her right hand to stroke the plush, light green carpet. The carpet wasn’t quite grass green, but it was slightly lighter and softer, like fairy grass. One look transports you to another place and time. Wanting to strengthen the illusion, she stretches her right leg so that the fairy grass envelops her toes. The polish adorning her fingernails and toenails is so close in color to the fairy grass that it looks as if her nails are made of fairy grass. She looks across the expanse that is her room, beyond the mountain of books on her desk, to the dragon rookery. She sees them stretch, waking to the sunlight as they ready to greet the dawn, and her. She smiles at them and hums a hello to which they respond with fervent, screechy yawns. The wizard protector bows in respectful greeting and the little white ghosts encircle the candle, keeping the wax in check. Rolling on her back, stretching like a feline princess, she sees the parent dragons, ever watchful, ever protecting. She sighs with longing because he’s not here. They might not have much time together, her purple-cloaked warrior and her, but the time they do spend together is always a grand adventure. She lies there, on her bed of fairy grass, wondering when the next adventure will happen. She’ll continue to care for the dragons in the rookery while she waits for her warrior.

This is her safe haven.

Nothing can touch her here.

Then the buzz of the alarm clock dispels the magic. Reality is calling.

I hope you've enjoyed my moment and go one to write your own moments!

2 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

I'm currently involved with an antho entitled !000 Words. It is harder than it seems! We take a picture and write a story. My first attempt was 300 words; then 650; and ultimately 981. Then I found out I got one tiny aspect of the picture wrong and have been asked to do a rewrite. Argh! Here's hoping I get it done before the deadline!

Sheila Deeth said...

I really enjoy those short pieces - just right to read when there really isn't time to read. I won a book of very short stories online which I keep on my desktop to dip into.

Then reality calls.

Nice story.