Short Storys,Short Short Stories, And Flash Fiction

Poe

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Edgar Allen Poe once said that stories should be short enough to read in one sitting. I think, with the advent of on line publishing the era of very short stories has arrived. It comes under names like short short stories, short short fiction, short stories and flash fiction. When I first started writing on hub pages my friendly critics told me that my hubs were too long, and they were right. I tried breaking them up into smaller hubs, which I titled as Part I, Part II and so forth. However, I did not find that really satisfactory. People seldom wanted to go from one to the next. I, myself, find it hard to read very long stories on line.

After reading various bits of advice, I concluded that a hub should be somewhere between 500 words and 1.500 words. Whether this is good or not, it is what I have been aiming at now. I try to avoid needing more than one hub for either a fiction or non-fiction story and try to keep my writing concise. I am writing this hub partly to organize my own thinking on the subject and to see what opinions others might have.

Source

Short Stories



What, precisely is a “Short Story?” I’m sure this has been debated since before Edgar Allen Poe set pen to paper.

· One definition would be: a work of fiction, generally prose, more pointed than in longer works such as novels.

  • The length of a short story, or most any story, may be determined by the needs of the genre it is written in.
  • It may depend on the requirements laid down by the market a story is submitted to. Publisher’s guidelines vary.
  • I am inclined to think that any story beyond 2000 words is just too long for on line reading. That is the reason that recently I have drifted to the short short story form.

Some background on short story writing


Short stories, according to Wikipedia, come from oral story telling, prose anecdotes, which sketch a situation, quickly coming to a point. I would add folk songs and folk tales to this. What drew me to folk music in the 1950’s was the fact that it was a powerful way to tell stories in emotional and concise sketches.

. There was a period where magazines published popular fiction and many fiction writers who have proven to be far better than given credit for are now looked upon as substantial storywriters. Their vehicle was the short story.

The modern short story may trace its roots to anecdotes and illustrative stories, which are usually straight to the point without embellishment. Parables and fables are very brief forms, which were used to enforce a spiritual or moral truth. Anyone reading the New Testament would be aware of this. These may be the ancestors of today’s very brief fiction.


Short stories cannot always follow the development pattern of the novel or other longer works. Whereas the novel may have an introduction to the setting (exposition), situation and characters, developing action, a crisis for the protagonist, climax, resolution and a moral. The primary change with a short story is they seldom have an exposition, but often begin abruptly, starting in the middle of the action. Often the ending is also abrupt and open. They don’t necessarily have a moral at the end. Since the story creator determines the specific characteristics of the short story as with other forms.

How long should a short story be?



Length of short stories depends on the genre. According to Wikipedia short stories can be anywhere between 1,000 words and 20,000 words. “Stories with less than 1,000 words are sometimes referred to as ‘short short stories, or ‘flash fiction’ which probabluy popularized the term.


Flash Fiction

Sometimes, I have found, the terms flash fiction and short short fiction are the same. Other times flash fiction is limited to fewer than 1,000 words. It might also be called by such terms as sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, and prosetry. In 1992 an anthology was published with the title Flash Fiction.

Implied elements:I think the biggest difference in very short fiction forms is that many story elements are suggested or implied in the telling.

In Summary


Although I have concentrated on short fiction in this hub, much of it applies to articles as well. I have concluded, for myself at least, that a hub should be between 500 and 1,500 words. The short short story or flash fiction formats work well for on line writing, since I have found that longer hubs do not work too well for me either as a reader or a writer.

What are your preferred forms of fiction?

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Comments 73 comments

Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 5 years ago

Hey! I totally agree and this is great advice. I personally like the the title followed by the next two paragraphs to grab me right in. Yet I do not want to see the ending coming until the very last minute.

This is very hard to do in short story's sometimes but you and many others here my friend on HP have shown that talent. Thanks


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the nice words. I wrote this partly to get my own thinking straight. Some time ago I avoided short short fiction and wanted to write longer stuff. Experience had convinced my that long pieces din't work too well on the internet.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

HubPages are made for short stories. Most readers don't have time for more, and I've noticed that on longer stuff, readership on Hub one is far better than subsequent Hubs. People lose interest.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Its been pretty much my observation.Thanks Will for stopping in and commenting.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Great advice. I am one who has very little time though I read as many Hubs as I can. I usually keep my articles somewhere around 1000 words. Writing great short stories requires great talent.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

I guess there's two schools of thought on this. There's the practical side where you need to think like an advertising man and say "How do I get people to read my stuff more?" And then there's the artistic side that just wants to flow, and doesn't want to compromise on details like length. I guess there's a balance somewhere in between.

Rob


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

suziecat7

Some of these thing we learn by experience.When I first started writing here I thought it was like a blog that one just keeps adding to. Even my son complained about the length of what I did. Thanks for the comment.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Robwrite,

Length has always bee a problem for me. Soon as I though I figured out how long a story should be and sent them to magazines they came back with a rejection that says they have a backlog of that length story.I tend to agree with Mark Twin's definition of a classic-a book nobody reads. Although some of his are now considered classics ana re read.

On a more serious note, I think length of a story is part of the discipline of being a writer.If I didn't learn anything else in my short tenure in the news business I learned I had to make copy fit the space available for it.

Thanks for the comment.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

Yes, this is nice to review this. Keeping article under 1,000 words is definitely important as most readers want to read a dozen articles at a sitting ans if they hit something larger than that, it can be discouraging. When I have a longer piece, I will set it into to or three or even four HUBs and it is a good idea to keeep the #1 section the shortest. Let the reader decide it they want to view more of it, kind of like fliping to part two of a front page article in a newspaper. Up one and (forget useful) awesome! RJ


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Generally I probably go a bit more than 1,000 words but like so many things in writing it is a judgement call, unless specific requirements are laid down. Thanks for the comment and the ratings.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

If a piece is very long, I find it easier to read in print. I like to be able to quickly re-read or skim some parts a second time. (Reason I doNOT like a Kindle). But in the hub format, I think you are correct - short. I do worry if a story is broken up in sections, folks will be lost along the way or not bother to jump in at the middle.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Like you, I often print out long pieces. the same for researching.It may be me and age etc. My son who is in his 40's reads almost everything on line, I think. He seems well informed but I never see him with a book or magazine. My daughter has gone the route of the kindle. I have not caught up.

Thanks for commenting.


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

Hi Dahoglund! Good information. I generally keep my fictional piece between 700 to 1000 words and sprinkle in some photos and maybe a video. Great advice!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It appears that you and some of the others are a bit ahead of me here. For me it has been, and still is, trial and error. Thanks for commenting.


Agnes Penn profile image

Agnes Penn 5 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

Great hub. One wonderful aspect of short story writing is how the writer forces herself to weed out information, details that need not paint the picture accurately. It disciplines the writer to bring the point home quickly and beautifully. Simple things need not be simple to make.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I have found the short story to be a challenge.To convey just enough information to give the reader an image of things without a lot of detail.Thanks for your comment.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Voting up. You have put some thought into this. I cannot read anything over three thousand words long off my computer. You get up that high and I definitely need to down load in order to appreciate what has been offered.

Over the years I have found the short story format a good discipline. I over write on purpose then shave it back until I have the length I want. The shaving back process I can then take to the novel.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the vote and comment. I more or less stumbled into writing in the short format. I started writing on hubpages with no intention of writing any fiction here. By experience I found longer works did not work for me here and tried some short fiction.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. I wish I can write a short story. But with my limited English, I am very skeptical. But I have new motivation after reading this hub. Excellent and very well written. You have done a great job. I'll press all button, except funny. Success for you!

Prasetio


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the comments and votes.I feel like a perpetual student always trying to learn. One never knows what they can do until they try it.


Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

Dago, I grew up with short stories (in South Africa) in the 50s and 60s. I would not say that the endings were either abrupt or open. They were generally happy-ever-after. And Aesop's Fables, which were very, very short, always had a moral at the end.

Short stories in magazines came to an end somewhere when life became too fast. People just preferred television (arrived in South Africa in 1975) and also with the advent of the personal computer.

When I lived in the UK between 1999 and 2003, many magazines still published short stories. So where the conceit comes from that it's an American form of literature, I have no idea! It's pretty universsal!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

As I recall from my lit courses back in the 1950's Edgar Allen Poe was accredited with being the "inventor" of the short story. Even in America we had authors such as Washington Irving writing short tales such as "Rip Van Winkle." Poe also said that poker is the gamje of Americans as opposed to chess. That does not mean that others don't play it.

As writers we do not make the definitions but live with the definitions made by whoever does that. Short stories have certain characteristics, one of which is length. Short short stories are shorter than short stories.

I did not say that short short stories end abruptly, only that they do sometimes.

I myself have often wondered why fables and tales are not short stories but I have to leave it to the academics who make their living deciding these things for us.

If you take offense at anything I have said, I apologize. I wrote thise article largely for the sake of trying to define my own thinking as I have recently started writing short short stories on hubpages.

Thanks for commenting


Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

Daho. Hans Christian Anderson wrote short stories long before Edgar Allen Poe. So did Chaucer (16th century) and a thousand other authors from European history.

As per wiki, short stories were well in use in 19th century Europe.

Here's the link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_story

Chekhov, a Russian short story writer, long preceded Edgar Allan Poe. As per wiki, he is considered the greatest short story writer ever.

Bram Stoker, the 19th century author of Dracula, also wrote numerous short stories.

I'm sorry, Daho. There were many, many authors who wrote short stories pre 1950. Either your professor was incorrect or you misheard him.

You haven't offended me. You would never do that. :) However, you are not accurate in your statement and it is unethical to mislead your readers. I would go back and change it.

One of the reasons so many are increasingly misinformed these days is because inaccurate information is spread by the internet.

Just an afterthought. Perhaps your professor meant he was the first short story writer in America - I don't know.


adventofreason 5 years ago

Loved this post. I am new here and have posted several flash fiction pieces. I usually write poetry, but I am trying to hone my skills as a prose writer. I think flash fiction may be my niche. Thanks for you words.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Sophia Angelique

If I understand you correctly, your objection is to the line I wrote about The short story having been called an American form of fiction because they are impatient. I have deleted that sentence. I am not sure it is wrong but it just isn't that important to the theme of this article. I do think much relies on how one defines the short story.My interest is in trying to write them.

Thanks for your interest and for commenting. If I misread what you feel should be changed I will take another look.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

adventureforareason

I have recently started writing short short stories mostly westerns. It started as kind of a challenge from one of the other writers. I wrote this article to try to refine for myself what these forms are. Mine are probably not flash fiction because they sometimes stray over the 1000 words.

Welcome to hubpages and thanks for reading and commenting on my hub.


Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

Dago, you got it right. It actually now reads much better. :) I've been writing short stories for a very long time! :) Just in the process of putting them in ebook form to upload to Smashwords. Then I'm removing those i put on HP because I don't think short stories do well on the web.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks again for your interest.I don't really know what does well. every time I think I have learned something it changes.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia

I'm with you on your last statement 'every time I think I have learned something it changes'.

Although I do believe a 'good' short story will always be a 'good' short story!

My personal choice is for a short story to have a 'beginning' a 'middle' and an 'end' :-)

You have put forward some thought inducing points in your hub :-)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Mostly what inspired writing this was the question of length because it took me a lot of trial and error to find hat works. Sometimes the ending is implied. I have used that technique in short short stories.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia

Sounds like a good idea, leaves room for a sequel?


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

That it does. I'm glad you visited to read this and comment.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 5 years ago from Illinois

DA, I just got sited for substandard, it was too short. Yet I accomplished all I wanted too. So I'm stumpted. Good Hub! H


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Harvey, thanks for commenting.I'm not sure what hubpages requires.One of the forums would probably have something on it.


Becky 5 years ago

I will read anything I can get my hands on including my Kindle. I have short stories and novels on it. I can get magazines, newspapers, blogs and even Hub Pages on it. I have Carpel Tunnel and have a problem holding a book anymore. It cramps my hands up. I do not have that problem with my Kindle so it has become a constant companion. Some people think they are limited but I have found that if they don't like something about them, they haven't figured out how to do that yet.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I haven't got a kindle but I imagine I will eventually. I'm sorry that you have the Carpel Tunnel but I appreciate your reading my hubs.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 5 years ago from Illinois

DA, I get different responses to the same question from Hub. It is not a well run organization. H


Sa`ge profile image

Sa`ge 5 years ago from Barefoot Island

You have done a great job in the detail of what a short story is. I grew up with shorts. While in high school my English lit teacher would test us in our writing skills by having us write short shorts. She told us that if we could muster up to writing something she could get her teeth into and feel full with a tear, giggle or have her gritting her teeth at the last word, then we would be a good writer when we grew up. Although she also told us that some of us would never grow up, no matter how much we tried to.

She would start us of at 500 words and each week there would be a new story to write with a hundred words added. It was fun and taught me a lot. Mrs Miurs was her name, she was originally from England or the Isles as she was prone to calling home.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I never had a chance to write fiction in high school. Even in college the only time was when I took a short story writing course.

did write some on my own but no chance for criticism.Sounds like you had good teachers.Thanks fro reading and commenting.


uncorrectedvision profile image

uncorrectedvision 5 years ago from Indiana

I have written some flash fiction and enjoyed it. I cannot find much time to write so flash fiction is handy. I would like to make a few bucks with it but not sure how. Any ideas would be welcomed.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. I am thinking about putting some of my fiction in an ebook but don't know a lot about it yet.


uncorrectedvision profile image

uncorrectedvision 5 years ago from Indiana

I have been thinking for some time about a ebook publishing house or a publishing house where a well crafted ebook can become a printed book for distribution.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It sounds like you are ahead of me on this.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada

Great hub. Good advice. Way too short. ;)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.I think the hub did serve the purpose of starting a conversation on the subject.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada

I was just kidding about way too short. ;) I agree with you. This is the age of the clip. I think you hit it right on. Anything more than about 1500 words is getting too long for the interest of the average reader these says.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Most of this is a result of trial and error and possibly the fact that I don't read as fast or as comfortably on line as my sons generation. He, I think, does all his reading on line.


Multiman 5 years ago

I usde to read a lot of "vingettes" a short short story form when I was a Galalxy SYFY reading fan. Some were better than the long ones.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. I rather resisted the short story in generl but it seems to go with our times.


uncorrectedvision profile image

uncorrectedvision 5 years ago from Indiana

I think there is an opportunity to bring flash fiction stories into a more long form. I have been considering an idea - each chapter of a novel is a stand alone flash fiction story and like several innovative films like

"Rashamon" each propels the larger narative.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I've been writing short short stories which have gotten to be known as the "Carbons Creek" stories on hubpages.I will probably put several of them into an ebook.I think that is somewhat the sort of thing you are suggesting.

Thanks for commenting.


uncorrectedvision profile image

uncorrectedvision 5 years ago from Indiana

There is a nifty e-book publishing link available through Amazon that allows you to publish your own book and sell it through Amazon.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm not sure what prompted it, but Amazon sent me an email to publish on kindle. Someone said I can publish elsewhere and then submit to Amazon.


fashion 5 years ago

Great advice here.I find the short story format a good discipline. Thanks for sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It took me awhile to appreciate it. Thanks for commenting.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors

Hi dahoglund, I love your new profile pic! This is an excellent article and I have come to the same conclusion myself recently, after publishing so very long, in-depth hubs. I also like to try to encapsulate the main information in my how to hubs and information hubs in a sidebar. That seems to help too.

I love short stories and am interested in the development of the flash fiction genre. Thanks for this excellent hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Wannabewestern.It is good to know my picture is OK.It is a self portrait taken on my laptop.This hub was kind of a self examination because I've been writing more fiction lately.Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 5 years ago

This article is very well written. I'd love to read one of your shorts. Do you have a suggestion?


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for your comment.There is a story on the related hubs above titled"Sarah Returns Home" that you might look at.I have several others in a related series.


bmcoll3278 profile image

bmcoll3278 4 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

Great advise I'm attempting to write a short story series here and each section could kind of be a shot shot or flash. It seems to be well received so far. Thanks for the advise.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

bmcoll,thanks for commenting.If the hub is useful to your writing it is a bonus to me. It is something of a practical matter tome that I don't think readers want to read anything very lengthy.


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Interesting Hub! I published two very short pieces on HP and have read many. This is an interesting way to look at HP and what works best.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi estatic. I had found that I got fatigue reading long hubs and figured other people felt the same about mine.I am not dedicated to flash fiction. Many of my stories go past 1000 words so would be short short fiction.Just hope to keep them readable. thanks for commenting.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Hi dahoglund--found this one by the the "show" method! lol very interesting and explains some of your method and process for short story writing! I'm going to have to re-read and read the comments later--short on time now. Enjoyed this Hub. Shared!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ajwrites, I'm glad you liked the hub. I am not really good at planning a story and the characters often go their own way.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Hi dahoglund! I read through the comments above. Sophia Angelique said she took her short stories off of Hubpages and made them into an e-book. Interesting, I wonder how that's worked out for her. That's the kind of thing I was thinking about for your stories with the same characters--like an anthology of them. The short stories keep the reader hungry for my--like serials--like how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did with Sherlock Holmes in the Strand.

I am thinking at some point, I will do that. Develop some characters--maybe like my Blue Mimes--dunno--and create a collection of short stories. I have ideas about some science fiction I've worked on, off and on, researching. Might publish here--then e-book later. Don't know much about creating e-books--looked at it awhile ago but might research now. Just thinking out loud...Thanks for listening dahoglund!

:o)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ajwrites, I've delved into the ebbo publishing and did two of them to see what is involved but never got into the promotion part. If you go to the bottom of my profile there are links to them. The first is a free book. The second is priced at 99 cents but you can still read part of it, which is the first twelve stories in my "Carbons Creek" stories.

Becky Katz is a fan of many story writers and has written hubs about their stories, including mine. You might want to take a look at her profile. You will see her a a commentator om most of my fiction hubs.

Thanks for reading my hubs.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Okay dahoglund--you are welcome. I'll have to check out those links and Becky Katz. I'll check back with you when I read them. :o)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ajwrites, hope you find it useful.


Vaiebhav profile image

Vaiebhav 2 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

You are right. Time for flash fiction has arrived, thanks to the Internet. Even micro fiction - with less than 200 words - is a form that would be useful for smart-phone-based readers. Good hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Vaiebhav, I have experimented some with flash fiction but then hubpages wanted more content, so I have been writing somewhat longer stories.

Thanks for commenting.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

While I do read short stories and all, I do prefer to snuggle up with a great book that will usually mean I suspend all plans until it is finished.

On a site where I am likely to read and respond to many stories and articles, I prefer the short short story which of course falls into the parameters set by that site.

Thanks for sharing this with us...

Angels are on the way today ps


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 21 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ps, thanks for reading and commenting. I was in a period of writing short fiction at the time.

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