Grab These Short Literary Pieces On The Go!
“Brevity is the soul of wit”William Shakespeare
The 21st century has witnessed a paradigm shift towards micro-fiction and flash-fiction in literature. As we lead busy lives, we find little time to immerse ourselves in longer literary pieces. Micro-fiction and flash-fiction are short, yet meaningful narratives. Their essence lies in making an impact despite their brevity. Readers are attracted by their ability to pack a punch in just a few sentences or words. Due to its experimental nature, this form of fiction has also gained wide popularity among writers.
The Origins of Flash-fiction
Flash fiction dates back to the time when fables and parables were being written. In the nineteenth century, the form was revived by writers like Walt Whitman and Kate Chopin. The best-known flash-fiction story to date is only six words long-
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
The author of the story is ambiguous, with several sources having been attributed for it, most popularly Ernest Hemingway. The amount of emotion contained within these words epitomizes what micro and flash stories seek to illustrate.
The difference between micro fiction and flash fiction
“This form, flash, wants to play. It can’t be categorized. It can’t be taught. It knows not to know.”Michael Martone
Although there is some flexibility over what can be categorised as micro and flash fiction, we can determine the following differences-
Flash Fiction: They are stories of 1000 words or less. They are also known as sudden fiction or short-short stories.
Micro Fiction: A subset of flash fiction, they are stories of 100 words or less. Some publications may allow up to 250 words.
Both forms are complete vignettes in themselves. They encapsulate a brief, provocative moment or experience. The reader is able to form connections with larger themes and ideas. In these narratives, each word is incredibly important. Every sentence adds to and reveals the depth of the story.
Widely-read flash-fiction works today
Flash fiction is renowned for its ability to captivate the reader within a few moments. You can read one while brewing your morning coffee or brushing your teeth. Today, technology has facilitated the growth of this genre. It has made these stories easily accessible to the public who seek short and crisp reads. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter have given birth to endless writers of short fiction. These digital platforms offer space and visibility to aspiring writers. If you’re looking to explore this genre, the following pieces will mesmerize you and even inspire you to write your own-
- “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
The author of the bestseller A Small Place, Kincaid has written an insightful story on what being a girl stands for. Adopting the stream-of-consciousness style, the story moves the reader in less than 1000 words. It is a potent demonstration of the unrealistic standards of femininity imposed upon women. Here are the first lines:
“Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the coloured clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline…”
2. Terribly Tiny Tales
If there is one platform that has redefined modern storytelling it is Terribly tiny tales. Founder Chintan Ruparel explains what impelled him to innovate a new way of writing stories-
“Reducing attention spans, and an urge to find a space for stories and original voices to flourish at a time when cat memes and selfies were ruling timelines, were what prompted us to start Terribly Tiny Tales,”
Hence, these stories are limited to 140 characters, just like a tweet. Today, people around can submit their own stories to the platform. Stories that reflect social issues co-exist with those on love and friendship. Some of them touch upon rampant social evils such as racism, female foeticide, dowry, and casteism.
3. “Give It Up!” by Franz Kafka
Kafka was an influential figure in Western literature and philosophy during the twentieth century. The piece titled “Give It Up!” is a perfect summation of Kafkaesque: the ultimate hopelessness of the human condition. It is a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end and incorporates surprise in the form of a twist ending. Written in just over 100 words, it is one of the most impressive feats of flash fiction by an author who was known for his full-length works. Here is the first line of the story:
“ It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was walking to the station…”
4. “Taylor Swift,” Hugh Behm-Steinberg
The winner of the 2015 Barthelme Short Prose Prize, Behm-Steinberg’s story imagines a bizarre world where a replica of Taylor Swift is available in abundance to anyone who orders one from the internet. Short and evocative, the story is a meditation on capitalism, fame, and consumer culture. It is also a humorous read. Here’s an excerpt:
“You’re in love; it’s great, you swipe on your phone and order: the next day a Taylor Swift clone shows up at your house…”
5. “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf
It is a short story of less than two pages. It is a modernist take on the genre of ghost stories. The narrator recounts the experiences that she and her partner faced while living in an abandoned house. There is also a “ghostly couple” moving around the house, searching for something but never revealing themselves. Here’s an excerpt from the beautifully written piece-
“Death was between us but the house vibrantly beats like a happily pulsating heart for the hidden treasure, the traces of sun beamed love left behind, in the trees, the apples, on the glass, the trees spinning darkness for a wandering beam of sun…”
Literature has evolved to create newer forms of reading and writing stories. In today’s age, the average reader who searches for instant gratification finds it in flash fiction. The reader is taken through a journey in just a few words. Convenient and concise, they make for emotional and fulfilling reads. Given the rise of technology, flash fiction is here to stay.