I’m a big fan of flash fiction — short short stories that are told in X number of words or less. Usually this X represents a thousand or so, although I’ve seen it represent a number much, much smaller. Some call this “micro fiction,” which I think means you have to use a microscope to read it. I’m not sure.
I’m a big fan of the smaller X and not just because I’m super lazy, although I definitely am. No, there’s something really neat and satisfying about a short story that’s all wrapped up in paragraph or two. It allows the author a chance to tell a story that doesn’t have a whole lot to it — maybe just a single scene or event that happens and is over in a snap. Character development has to happen with a handful of words; dialogue is often minimal or non-existent; and the action is usually immediate and, in theory, leaves a bright impression — like the flash of a bulb and the splotchy eyesight that follows. I love long, drawn out stories, but there is a lot of merit in these tiny tales.
However, I’ve found that a lot of writers seem to treat micro fiction less like succinct storytelling and more as a format to display a small collection of thoughts. This is drifting into opinion territory, so take the following with a grain of salt, but I think that a piece of micro fiction should still contain the basic elements of storytelling: plot, character, some kind of conflict, resolution…that kind of thing. It just has to happen very quickly.
But I’ve read a lot of micro fiction that blatantly omits many of these elements. Usually there is a character, maybe a description of emotions or some such, but very little in the way of action or plot. Often, these stories describe a scene, how a character feels about something, and then they just drift away without actually telling the reader about anything. It’s as if somebody began whispering some random stuff in your ear and then just slowly backed away as he was still talking. You don’t know why the fuck they were whispering or what they hell they were going on about; you’re just unsatisfied and kind of creeped out. That’s no good.
With all that said, I always try to write micro fiction that is — as much as is possible within the format — still a story. A really short story, but a story nonetheless. As with any of my writing, I fail more than I succeed; but that’s part of the fun and challenge. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.
Here’s a little piece of mic-fic I wrote a few weeks ago. Like everything I seem to write these days, it’s about a giant monster. Apparently, I’m creatively bankrupt. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it; if you enjoy it, I hope you take the time to comment; if you don’t enjoy it…well, I guess you can comment, too. I won’t be upset for long.
Faith in Something
Hank’s bulbous belly jiggled harder and harder with each of the approaching monster’s thunderous footsteps. But he swallowed what little spit he had and narrowed his eyes into slits so thin he could barely see, just to look mean.
Sure, he was scared — you’d have to be crazy if you weren’t at least a little bit terrified of 500 feet of towering, scaly, fire-breathing death; but he stood his ground there on Main Street of his little hometown, one arm pressed into the fleshy fat of his left love handle, the other pointed upward toward the beast with the index finger extended. It was this — a single touch — that would finally destroy the monster and end his worldwide tour of destruction.
Hank had no proof of this ability, of course. But knew it in his heart — had known it since he first saw the television broadcast of the giant monster tearing through Tokyo; known it despite his mother’s insistence that he was “dumb” and “worthless,” or his classmates’ relentless mocking of how fat and stupid he was, or the fact that his guidance counselor had laughed in his face outright. Even as the shadow of the creature’s ocean-liner of a foot fell over him, blocking out the sight of everything else, Hank just kept pointing that meaty finger up in the air like a rapier that would pierce through its sole and puncture its heart.
It might have seemed foolish — just the fantasy of a fat kid with too much imagination and not enough good sense. But a boy’s got to have to have faith in something.