Story writing gets harder the shorter your story gets. Regardless of its size, a piece requires several things in order to be a complete story: characterization, crisis, and resolution. You could call it the CCR rule of short story writing (as in, if you don’t heed the rule then who’ll stop the rain?)
This proves difficult to do with flash fiction (under 1500 words), even more so with microfiction (under 300 words) and almost impossible with nanofiction (under 100 words). The shorter you get, the more you have to leave out or imply. You must choose each word carefully and only write that which directly hinges on your story’s CCR points.
Reblogged here is a nanofiction piece by Gina, aka Singledust, that represents a very good example of a tiny, but largely complete story.
First, she gives us clear characterization. The word “they” gives us a group, and the description of the first sentence tells us they are a couple. We do not need to know other details such as how they look or their personal backgrounds, since it is not relevant to the crisis. All that is important is that they are lovers.
Next, we have a clear crisis. Someone is approaching and will discover the lovers. The description of the sun as a creature tells us the couple feels disturbed, if not distressed by the idea of being caught. The choice of the word “creature” here is probably one of the most important in the entire piece, as it sets the tone and the crisis (“lay entwined” is probably a close second, as it does most of the characterization work).
Finally, we have a resolution, or at least an implication. The author tells us it is “too late to take cover” so a confrontation with the approaching woman is inevitable. What form that confrontation takes is left to the reader’s imagination, but the crisis of discovery is concluded nonetheless.
It is hard for me to imagine how you could do more with this limited number of words. The photo is helpful for setting the scene, but is not necessary to for this story to be fulfilling.
Microfiction, by its nature, must leave a lot to the reader; it contains a lot of ambiguities. The trick is not feeling compelled to give your reader everything and forcing yourself to stick to only that which relates to your CCR points. Readers can come up with description and relationships on their own, and it is often a good idea to leave them to it. What you need to provide is the story, the happening, the drive and action. The rest will come along on its own.
Many, if not most, microfiction works fail this test of completeness in some way, being more of a vignette than a full story (most focus on character to the detriment of crisis or resolution). I’m sure many of mine do. Ultimately, the trick is knowing what your story is about and restricting yourself to only that.
Written for Three Line Tales Thank you Sondra for this amazing challenge!
photo by Ales Krivec via Unsplash
They lay entwined in the meadow, among long stalks of lavender, in the late evening shadows.
There’s not a breeze to carry sound but they hear a cry from afar and look around, something glints near the barn.
And they see her, a woman running towards them, behind her a creature covered in yellow, too late they can’t take cover, her flame spread like wildfire.