How short is short? - Lynne Garner

As a writer of short stories I love how a story can be conveyed in a few words. So when I'm teaching my creative writing courses I often set homework and ask my students to write a short story. Before I even have the chance to go any further I'm often asked how short is short. I tend to use this opportunity to introduce them to the story forms of flash fiction (also known as nano-fiction, sudden fiction, micro-fiction and the micro-story) using the following as examples:

“In bed, struggling, he succumbs.”
A. J Chilson


“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Ernest Hemingway

I then introduce them to the 'twister' which is a story using just 140 characters which originated on the social media platform Twitter. Here is an example by Ron Gould:

"Time travel works!" the note read. "However you can only travel to the past and one-way. " I recognized my own handwriting and felt a chill.”

Or these examples written by the writer and film maker Simon Sylvester (wish I had this guys talent): 

“She insisted they call the baby Robert. If he’d known the real reason, 
he’d have put up more of a fuss.”

“They walked up the hill together, father and son. 
He emptied the little urn from the top of Waslade; he walked down on his own.”

Or my own:

Josh watched the stag's breath float on the chilled autumn morning air. He checked, one shot left. Ready, aim, press. The perfect image.

I then introduce them to the dribble, drabble and droubble (which they often think I'm making up). A dribble is a story that has exactly 50 words, a drabble has exactly 100 words and a droubble has exactly 200 words. You're allowed 15 additional words for the title but unused words cannot be used in your story. If you'd like to find out more about these forms then click here

So in answer to the question how short is short that's up to you.

Having read this I'm now setting you the challenge of writing a little bit of flash fiction or if you want to really go for it then why not have a go at writing a twister. Oh and please do share your results below I'd love to read them. 


Now for a blatant plug - don't say I didn't warn you:

My latest short story collection Coyote Tales Retold is available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote is available as a paper back and an ebook.    

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:


Umberto Tosi said…
Pulling away, her glance told me all but her name. "Follow that cab, and step on it," I said unlike me, destination unknown. What the hell?
I write/teach flash fiction and this is a great piece!
Lynne Garner said…
Umberto - Love it. Leaves lots of open questions to be answered.

Dipika - Thanks. I find encouraging students to write these demonstrates to them quite quickly how to make every word count.
Bill Kirton said…
I love all these forms - challenging but very satisfying when everything falls into place. I won't offer one of my own, but I like this from my brother Ron (who should write more - of everything):

'That ring you lost, was it a wedding ring?'
'Not really.'
madwippitt said…
Really enjoyed this ... the one about the ash scattering really brought a lump to my throat as it was something my Dad had talked about ...
And love Brer Rabbit - they were our favourite stories read to us in primary school! Good to see you waving the flag for him (and all the others!)
Kara said…
144 character fiction story

Pinning all her reasoning on one answer " I will survive." She stepped through a shimmering hole into another dimension of the present as an unwanted hungry refugee.
Lynne Garner said…
Bill - interesting piece by your brother, gets you asking lots of questions.

Madwippitt - the ashes one normally gets a good conversation going with the students who come up with lots of different scenarios.

Karen - Your Twister is just up my street love a bit of fantasy come Sci-Fi.
julia jones said…
Can't do it at all - therefore very impressed. Thanks

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