Mon 30 Nov 2009
I’ll admit, my attention span is shortening. Over the past 18 months, I’ve published eight flash stories, seven humor pieces under 500 words, and five short (2,000 word) stories and articles. I’m afraid I’ll never write another novel or collection of short stories, but then, isn’t everyone limiting their online reading to the equivalent of cereal box text?
I’m afraid our future is going the way of Japanese keitai shousetsu—novels downloaded to cell phones with chapters of just 70 to 100 words. I had a Eureka moment when I discovered Brian Huggett’s Short Humour Site . He offers 500-or-fewer-words shorts to meet today’s rush-hour needs “between stations on the metro, during lovemaking, during lovemaking between stations on the metro, during free-fall skydiving.”
E-zine editors are becoming as snippy as Elizabethan sonnet writers in limiting word counts. Entirely new classes of writing are resulting. Recently, I updated our writing group here into the differences among flash, drabble, nano, 55ers, single sentencers, and six worders. This is what the situation looks like:
Flash is generally 1,000 or fewer words, although some fudge the issue like a gourmand in a bake shop and take more words. Popular sites include Flash Fiction Online, FlashQuake , Every Day Fiction (which has carried several of my pieces), Everyday Weirdness and K.C. Ball’s 10Flash . 365 Tomorrows restricts sci fi writers to a skimpy 600 words; however, Micro Horror , with tongue firmly planted in cheek, limits the writer to 666 words.
Drabble “centenarians” boil a story down to 100 words. The Drabbler is a contest-laden, paying market. The 100-Words style grew out of the original drabble site started by Jeff Koyen and Roy Batchelor. Subscribers may post anything—in exactly 100 words—that opens “a tiny window into their lives.”
Like The Incredible Shrinking Woman, word counts continue downward with the 55er. New Times began competitions in 1986 to write a short story in 55 words. Yes, only 55 words, with examples at http://55-fiction.org.
Six Words is a tough challenge. Hemingway famously wrote his “best story” in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” My favorite is William Gibson’s “Bush told the truth. Hell froze.” You can find terrific one-liners by famous writers at Wired magazine.
Are these valuable new reading forms? Possibly, if you’re jumping off a building and have only six floors in which to complete a story. But I think it all started with Genesis and the shortest anagram in the Bible: “Madam, I’m Adam.”
Walter Giersbach’s fiction has appeared Bewildering Stories, Big Pulp, Every Day Fiction, Everyday Weirdness, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Northwoods Journal, Paradigm Journal, Short Fiction World, Southern Fried Weirdness, The Short Humour Site and Written Word. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child (www.wildchildpublishing.com). He also served for three decades as director of communications for Fortune 500 companies.