Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Microfiction: Very Very Very Short Stories

Through a series of happy coincidences over the winter break, I learned about "drabbles," which are tiny stories just 100 words long. I created a new blog where I started doing my own drabble versions of folktales and stories, especially stories from India; the 100-word stories in the sidebar of the Announcements blog come from that project. I've been having so much fun with that over the winter break, which made me think you might enjoy learning about drabbles and other forms of very short microfiction. So, there is a new microfiction option for extra credit each week and microfiction is also part of the Story Lab (Weeks 4-6-10-12-14-15). This page can get you started with some microfiction ideas and strategies, and you can repeat this option as often as you want, either for extra credit and/or for the Story Lab. I'm really curious to see what kinds of tiny stories you will write!

About microfiction. Technically speaking, all the stories you are writing for this class fall into the general category of microfiction, which is usually defined as fiction under 1000 words in length (although some stretch that limit up to 1500 words; there's no single authority on just what these terms must mean). So, working down from longer to shorter, here are some of the microfiction categories you can find:
flashes: stories no more than 1000 words long
sudden fiction: no more than 750 words
drabbles: no more than 100 words
dribbles: no more than 50 words
hint fiction: no more than 25 words
six-word stories: just what the name says; no more than 6 words
Twitterature: no more than 140 characters (although Twitter now allows 280 characters)
two-sentence stories: instead of counting words, you count the sentences

For your regular storywriting assignments in class, you are writing stories that are at least 300 words long (blog posts) or 500 words minimum (for your project stories), but this microfiction option is a chance to explore story forms that are even shorter. Personally, my favorite is the 100-word drabble. That's enough space that you can really tell a story, but you also have to work hard to make every word count. For stories that are under 100 words, you usually have to rely on your readers to fill in the gaps, with the story being almost like a riddle; you are giving your reader the clues they need in order to put the story together for themselves. For example, this story depends on a mythological allusion to Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who waited for him twenty years to return from the Trojan War (from Hint Fiction):

Write. For this assignment, I'd like you to try two different microfiction forms, choosing from those super-short options: 100 words, 50 words, 25 words, 6 words, 280 characters, or 140 characters (don't worry; most word counters also offer a character count too) or 2 sentences (you don't need a counter for that). You might choose to tell the same story in two different lengths OR you might write two different stories; either approach is good! See below for lots of ideas about sources, writing strategies, etc.

Blog. To complete the assignment, write up a blog post with your two stories, along with an author's note where you explain your process: how you wrote the stories, what you think works well about them, what you struggled with, etc. The author's note will probably be much longer than the stories! You'll also have bibliography as needed (see note below about sources and prompts), plus an image with image information as usual.

Comment option. These posts will not go into the randomizer for comments, unless you tell me that you do want comments. So, if you have a microfiction post that you DO want me to put in the randomizer, you can fill out this form to let me know: Microfiction for Comment. (The form is also embedded at the bottom of his post.)

Here's the Declaration you will complete, and below you will find some ideas and strategies to use in writing your tiny stories. Please share with me any ideas and resources I can add to the list!

TITLE: I used the word "Microfiction" plus my own title (for example, Microfiction: Two Tiny Ghost Stories)
LABELS: I used the label "Microfiction" plus the week's label.
(Microfiction, Week ## separated by a comma)
NOTE: The note explains my process for writing the microfiction stories and the choices I made.
LENGTH. I wrote stories of two different lengths from the different microfiction categories.
IMAGE. I included at least one image with image information (caption and link).
BIBLIOGRAPHY. I included bibliography for any story sources I used (if any; there may or may not be bibliography needed).

Microfiction Ideas and Resources

Story sources. You can use the reading for class as your story sources, just like you do for the regular story posts. You can also browse the Freebookpalooza for lots of books that contains folktales and other stories from around the world. You could even try doing microforms of other stories you have written for this class! In addition, you could get ideas from movies, television shows, or book series, or you might try writing microfiction inspired by news of the day. If you want to write microfiction inspired by your own life, you might want to do the Biographical Writing option instead (it's like this assignment, but focused on personal writing). Photos and artwork can also make great prompts for writing microfiction.

Story styles. For drabbles (100-word-stories), you can use conventional storytelling styles, even including a bit of dialogue. For the shorter forms, you are going to have to be more creative and quirky in the style that you choose. One of the most famous six-word-stories, for example, takes the form of an advertisement: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" (you can find out more about this famous story at Wikipedia). The title of the story does not go against your word count, so this can also be an experiment in creating really excellent titles that are an important part of the story experience.

Learn more. If you are new to this world of microfiction, it can help to read examples of other people's stories and to learn from published flash fiction authors. I'll be expanding this list as the semester proceeds, and you can let me know if you have any recommendations:
Some Kindle books:
Plus you can also Google these terms, like drabble stories, to see what you learn. And the #SixWordStory hashtag at Twitter features both stories and lots of fun image writing prompts too, like this one from Mark Lee:

Use this form if you want me to put your story in the randomizer for comments: