Choosing the Shortest Story Forms
Until recent years, I wrote only novels, thinking of them as the ultimate literary art form—the home run. I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the short form. How could I possibly fit my grand and unforgettable themes, my many profundities in a few thousand words? Invariably, I’d start each short story with a novelesque first scene that was four or five pages long—well beyond the typical word count of flash fiction. In the last few years, thanks to so many literary journals moving online, the conventional short story form has become even shorter. I found myself with 6,000-word stories with few places to send them, so I started writing more flash in the hopes of publishing more often. At first, it was difficult squeezing full scenes into a line or two. But with practice and a little trickery, I began to churn out 1,000-2,000-word pieces that felt whole. Several of these flash stories made it into my recently released collection Letters from Dinosaurs. To keep my word counts down, I chose story forms that had inherent word-count limits.