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What Are Short Short Stories?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Short short stories are written works that are usually fiction. They are sometimes known as micro fiction or flash fiction, and they are exceptionally short pieces that tell a story in a brief amount of space and time. Most short short stories are shorter than 1500 words, and some are even as short as 500 words. It is exceptionally difficult to tell a complete story in such a short amount of space, so these types of stories can be quite a challenge for writers. Literary magazines and other websites or print publications will often print such stories to fill a small amount of space at press time.

Like other types of stories, short short stories must include some common elements: there must be a character of some sort, and the narrative must focus on some sort of plot or development. Short short stories do not necessarily need to have a plot, and they can instead focus on character development, but again, something needs to happen to propel the story forward quickly. Most writers usually do not have enough space to develop characters thoroughly, and a story usually only has one or two characters overall.

A person writing a short story.
A person writing a short story.

A step up from short short stories is the short story, which is generally 6000 words or fewer. Such stories allow a writer to develop characters and plot a little further, though the short story is also fairly limited in scope most of the time. The writer must still propel the plot forward quickly, and while characters can be developed more than they can in short short stories, they are still not as developed as they could be in longer works. An exceptionally long story that is not quite a short story and not quite a novel is known as a novella. Novellas can be anywhere from 10,000 words to 50,000 or even 60,000 words. These are more developed stories with more depth to the characters.

The complete opposite of short short stories is the novel. This is a much longer and more developed work that can range anywhere from 60,000 words to over 200,000 words. Many novelists aim for the 90,000 word to 100,000 word mark, though there is no set limit for a novel. While a novel does allow a writer to develop characters and plot more thoroughly, a short short story is effective at forcing the writer to write succinctly and creatively, since he or she must entertain the reader and make memorable characters and plot in such a short amount of time.

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Discussion Comments


@everetra - A lot of the very short, short stories I’ve read resemble plots from the Twilight Zone. They’re often very freaky, with twists and surprise endings. In my opinion these are the best kinds of stories to tell using this format. Think of short, short stories as mini morality plays, with a dark twist.


Many newcomers to fiction writing assume that they should ply their skills with very short stories. These writers erroneously assume that the shorter formats are easier for them to write than in something longer, like a novel. The opposite is true.

I know, because I tried it myself. It takes far more talent and skill to write that super short story than to write something long. In a short story—especially something that length—you use a lot of dialogue and quick action to tell a story from beginning to end. It can be done, but you need to write tight. I recommend that you read sample short short stories online, and use the book The Elements of Style as your style guide.

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    • A person writing a short story.
      By: mninni
      A person writing a short story.