Hyper-Short Fiction

Some writers (myself included) are drawn to the short-form story idea, and I think it’s that the imposed brevity forces you to make every word count and say something. The luxury of verbosity is gone.

Let’s quickly go down the list of Fiction Types by length:

Novel Usually 40,000 words or more, and can be much longer.
Novella Usually between 17,500 words and 39,999 words.
Novelette Usually between 7,500 and 17,499 words.
Short Story Usually between 1000 and 7,499 words.
Flash Fiction Usually less than 999 words.


Then there are the really short forms: dabbles, dibbles, micro-fiction, Twiction, six-word Stories, six-sentence stories, and so on. All of these are recognized forms of fiction as well but usually have specific constraints – i.e., a dabble is exactly 100 words long, or Twiction is short enough to fit in a tweet, etc.


When it comes to the hyper-short fiction forms, fewer doesn’t mean less.

Hemingway was accredited with writing an entire story with no title, in only six-words:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

It’s considered a complete story because it has a beginning, middle and end. I blogged about it in 2011, here.

Hint-Fiction-CoverI recently picked up a small, unassuming book at Barnes and Noble.

Hint Fiction, Edited by Robert Swartwood. (paperback, published by W. W. Norton & Company, $13.95)

I was introduced to yet another, short-short format. Hint fiction is, “A story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.”

Before this book, I would have said it was not publishable. I am wrong because, well, here is the published  book of stories, 25 or fewer words long, each – really not complete stories, but fiction that hints at a story. I consumed the entire book in an hour, and that was reading the introduction and slowly perusing the stories. Some were very good, and I enjoyed what the author did – clever twists or word-play. Others were less inspired, and that is the case with anthologies – it’s a mixed bag.

Hint Fiction (the book) is interesting, but light reading. I would only recommend it to fans of the hyper-short fiction form. I might play around with the format in my own writing, just for fun. Regardless, hyper-short fiction is a good exercise to tighten prose.

Granted, these brief stories – even the one that Hemingway is recognized for having written – are not a complete story-telling experience in their own right. By not immersing the reader in details, the mind is left to fill in the blanks. In this way, it is an exercise for the reader as well.

They are the Haiku of the fiction world.

If this interests you, take a look at Hint Fiction, and these links:

Six Sentences – What can you say in six sentences? Great community on the 6S Social network, too.

Microfiction on Twitter – Twiction, conveying a story in 140 characters. Also look for #twiction on Twitter to see what others are doing with the format.

And here is a MSNBC article on the hyper-short fiction format:

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If the video does not work, go to the source, here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21134540/vp/33231407#33231407

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