What's the difference between "flash fiction" and a "short-short story"?
Published: August 25, 2011
Q: What’s the difference between flash fiction and a short-short story?
“flash fiction” and “short-short story” refer to a very short work of
fiction. They are often used interchangeably. There are other labels for
this kind of story, including sudden fiction, micro fiction and
postcard fiction. The length of the very short story is variable. Some
editors set a word limit appropriate to their needs and goals. Vestal Review looks for stories that are 500 words or less while Glimmer Train
defines a very short fiction as one that doesn’t exceed 3,000 words.
The most common range for a very short story tends to fall between 750
and 1,500 words.
Some might argue that a
certain label does carry more specific length requirements. Postcard
fiction, for instance, should fit on the back of a postcard. But even
this is hazy. Does this mean the dinky little discount postcard (3.5 by 5
inches) I picked up at an infrequently visited cheese shop in rural
Wisconsin or the larger ones (6 by 4.5 inches) advertisers like to use
to fill my mailbox? What about big, loopy script versus scaled-down
So, what’s a writer to do? Get back to
basics. Write the stories that matter to you with the word count they
demand—no more and no less. Then, figure out where they might fit. And
perhaps scour some journal submission guidelines and give yourself a
challenge. What happens when you set out to write a complete story in
under 300 words?
Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She
was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for
Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University,
University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a
visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Send your questions on the craft of creative writing to email@example.com. All of Brandi's other Ask The Writer columns are available to registered users.