Flash fiction

Flash fiction
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Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.[1]

In one particular format, established by Steve Moss, Editor of the New Times, the requirement is 55 words; no more and no fewer. Another, unspecified but frequently held, requirement is that the title may be no more than seven words. Hyphens do not alter the word-count (that is, "word count" has as many words as "word-count"). However, an exception to the hyphen rule is that if a hyphenated word cannot be separated, then the hyphenated word could be considered one word. As an example, (as given by the website, see reference) the word "co-worker" can be considered one word, where "long-suffering" is two words.[2]



Other names for flash fiction include sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, short short, postcard fiction and short short story, though distinctions are sometimes drawn between some of these terms; for example, sometimes one-thousand words is considered the cut-off between "flash fiction" and the slightly longer short story "sudden fiction".

The term "flash fiction" may have originated from a 1992 anthology of that title.[3] As the editors said in their introduction, their definition of a "flash fiction" was a story that would fit on two facing pages of a typical digest-sized literary magazine.


Flash fiction has roots going back to Aesop's Fables, and practitioners have included Saadi of Shiraz (The Gulistan), Bolesław Prus, Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Yasunari Kawabata, Ernest Hemingway, Julio Cortázar, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Fredric Brown. Contemporary flash fiction writers include Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel, Stuart Dybek, Steve Almond, Meg Pokrass, Pamela Painter, Molly Giles, Tara Masih, James Robison and Michael Czyzniejewski, Kim Chinquee and Sherry Flick. New life has been brought to flash fiction by the Internet, with its demand for short, concise works. Ezines such as Wigleaf, elimae, and BLIP Magazine offer writers a ready market for flash-fiction works. However, flash fiction is also published by many print magazines. Markets specializing in flash fiction include SmokeLong Quarterly,[4] Flash Fiction Online,[5] and Vestal Review.[6] The 365 Tomorrows [7] project has published a new piece of science fiction flash fiction daily since 2005. The Micro Award, created in 2007, is the first award dedicated solely for flash fiction.[8].

One type of flash fiction is the short story with an exact word count. Examples include 55 Fiction, the Drabble and the 69er. Nanofictions are complete stories, with at least one character and a discernible plot, exactly fifty-five words long. A Drabble is a story of exactly one hundred words, excluding titles, and a 69er is a story of exactly sixty-nine words, again excluding the title. The 69er was a regular feature of the Canadian literary magazine NFG, which featured a section of such stories in each issue.

Lydia Davis has published six collections of short stories, mostly flash fiction. "The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis", published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2009, contains all her stories to date. Contemporary flash fiction writer Meg Pokrass, published a flash fiction collection ""Damn Sure Right" from Press 53 in 2011. Short story writer Bruce Holland Rogers has written "369" stories which consist of an overall title, then three thematically related 69ers, each with its own title.[9] Writer Mark Budman has written a novel-in-flashes.[10] Author Katie Farris has written a short-short sequence, "BOYSGIRLS" in which individual short-shorts also form a larger narrative. [11]And Bob Thurber's "Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel" utilizes a series of interwoven 'micro-chapters' to tell its story. [12]

Aesop's Fables can retrospectively be regarded as an early example of flash fiction


Flash fiction differs from a vignette in that the flash-fiction might contain the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike the case with a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten, that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline. This principle, taken to the extreme, is illustrated in a possibly apocryphal story about a six-word flash reportedly penned by Ernest Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."[13][14]

Micro Award

The Micro Award was established in 2007 by author Robert Laughlin to recognize outstanding flash fiction of both print and electronic media.[15][16][17]

The Micro Award is presented annually for the best English language flash fiction work of the prior year.[18][19][20] Eligible stories must not exceed 1000 words in length.[18][21] Bruce Holland Rogers won the first award in 2008 for his story, "Reconstruction Work," published in Flash Fiction Online.[21][22][23] The 2008-2010 awards were given by Robert Laughlin.[24] The 2011 Micro Award will be accepting nominations this fall and will announce the winner of the 4th annual award on February 17, 2011.[25][15][26]

Winners and Nominees

Year Winner Published in
2008 “Reconstruction Work”
by Bruce Holland Rogers
Flash Fiction Online
2009 “Let x”[27]
by Chad Simpson
2010 “The Children’s Factory”[28]
by Michael Stewart
Birkensnake 2
2011 “Choosing a Photograph for Mother's Obituary"
by Kevin A. Couture
The Antigonish Review

See also


  1. ^ "Flash Fiction". Percontra.net. http://www.percontra.net/flashfiction.htm. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  2. ^ "Sample Shorties 55-word short stories". Morrimostow.com. http://www.morrimostow.com/excerpts1.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  3. ^ Flash Fiction: seventy-two Very Short Stories, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas and Tom Hazuka, 1992, ISBN 0-393-30883-9.
  4. ^ "Duotrope's Digest - Publication Details: SmokeLong Quarterly". Duotrope.com. 2010-05-17. http://duotrope.com/market_370.aspx. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  5. ^ "Duotrope's Digest - Publication Details: Flash Fiction Online". Duotrope.com. http://duotrope.com/market_2545.aspx. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  6. ^ "Duotrope's Digest - Publication Details: Vestal Review". Duotrope.com. http://duotrope.com/market_41.aspx. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  7. ^ 365 Tomorrows
  8. ^ http://www.microaward.org
  9. ^ Word Games, The Writer, January 2006
  10. ^ My Life at First Try, 2008, ISBN 1-58243-400-X
  11. ^ BOYSGIRLS, 2011, ISBN-10: 1934851302
  12. ^ Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel, 2011, ISBN: 1934081310
  13. ^ Very Short Stories, Wired Magazine, November 2006
  14. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara; David P. Mikkelson (2008-10-29). "Baby Shoes". Snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/babyshoes.asp. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  15. ^ a b "The Micro Award for Flash Fiction Lives Again!". Jason Sanford. 2010-07-27. http://www.jasonsanford.com/jason/2010/07/the-micro-award-for-flash-fiction-lives-again.html. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  16. ^ "Robert Laughlin". Downdirtyword.com. http://www.downdirtyword.com/authors/robertlaughlin.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  17. ^ "storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories 2008". Storysouth.com. 2008-02-08. http://www.storysouth.com/millionwriters/millionwritersnotable2008.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  18. ^ a b "Flash Me Magazine: Home". Wingedhalo.com. http://www.wingedhalo.com/awards.html. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  19. ^ "FlashNews: Micro Award for Flash Fiction Open for Submissions in Oct". Flashfictiononline.com. 2009-07-02. http://www.flashfictiononline.com/news/2009/07/micro-award-for-flash-fiction-open-for.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  20. ^ "Flash Fiction Challenge 2010 | About". Nycmidnight.com. http://www.nycmidnight.com/2010/FFC/About.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  21. ^ a b "FlashNews: Micro Award for Flash Fiction Open for Submissions in Oct". Flashfictiononline.com. 2009-07-02. http://www.flashfictiononline.com/news/2009/07/micro-award-for-flash-fiction-open-for.html. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  22. ^ "Whidbey Island Writers Association - MFA Program - Faculty, Semester & Residency". Writeonwhidbey.org. http://www.writeonwhidbey.org/mfa/facultypublications.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  23. ^ "2008". The Micro Award. http://www.microaward.org/2008. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  24. ^ Robert Laughlin. "Bewildering Stories biography and bibliography of Robert Laughlin". Bewilderingstories.com. http://www.bewilderingstories.com/bios/laughlin_bio.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  25. ^ "Writing Contests On The Web". ReadingWriters. 2010-08-15. http://www.readingwriters.com/othercontests.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  26. ^ Arkenberg, Megan (2010-07-24). "Mirror Dance: Summer News". Mirror Dance Fantasy. http://mirrordancefantasy.blogspot.com/2010/07/summer-news.html. Retrieved 2010-08-27. [dead link]
  27. ^ "http://www.esquire.com/blogs/books/Chad-Simpson-Napkin-Fiction". The Books Blog. Esquire. August 15, 2008. http://www.esquire.com/blogs/books/Chad-Simpson-Napkin-Fiction. Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  28. ^ Stewart, Michael. "The Children’s Factory". Birkensnake, issue ii. http://birkensnake.com/childrensfactory.php. Retrieved 2011-03-06. 

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