How Short Is Too Short?

Howdy, howdy!  I’ve noticed a strange trend in the world of short stories lately: they keep getting shorter.  It kind of reminds me of cellphones.  They started out as these huge, bulky things that people wanted smaller and smaller, then all of a sudden people wanted them bigger again.  Is that what’s going to happen with short stories?  I don’t know.  But I do know that short stories are getting smaller and smaller at the moment.  When I first noticed it, there was flash fiction (1,000 words or less), then micro fiction (100 – 500 words depending on who you ask) popped up, and now I’m seeing a lot of talk about 50 word stories.  It’s not that I mind this trend, I’m just curious about what it means for the writing world in general.

mobile-phones-evolution-6
I suppose we’ve reached the early 2000s by comparison.

Personally, I enjoy writing and reading flash fiction.  It’s a challenge to write a story that feels complete and satisfying in under 1,000 words, but it’s possible.  Micro fiction, on the other hand, I tend to look at more as poetry or as excerpts.  It’s rare for me to find one that works as an actual story in my mind.  And I have a feeling I’ll be looking at these 50 word stories the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written things that were super short as an exercise in conciseness, but I never considered them to be worth submitting anywhere.  I never realized it was something people were interested in to be honest.  And why are people so interested in them?  Is it because of the time we live in?  In the day and age of Tweets and instant gratification, do we just not have the attention span to read something longer?  The cynical part of me believes that has a lot to do with it.  Another part of me thinks it started out the way I started doing it, as a personal challenge, that someone decided to share with other people who took the challenge upon themselves.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparently a thing now.

it-s-a-writer-thing-unisex-tri-blend-t-shirt-by-american-apparel
It’s okay.  I’m a writer and I don’t entirely understand.

I’m all for conciseness, but how short is too short?  Are there going to be 10 word stories next?  Serious questions, I’m not being facetious.  I was always told that a story should have a beginning, middle, and end.  That was the golden rule when I started writing.  But nowadays, some stories start in the middle and only hint at a beginning or even start at the end and that’s all okay.  I don’t mind things breaking the rules if it works.  I’m curious though, when a reader has to build a story in their head around the 50 or 100 or however many words they get, can the author still really take credit for the story?  Yeah, the words planted the idea, but the reader had to do most of the work.  Maybe that’s the whole purpose of stories that short, to make the readers work for it.

overthinking
I know I’m overthinking it.  It’s what I do.

I don’t have the answers, but these are the kind of things I think about.  What about you?  What are your thoughts on 50 word stories and this trend of short stories becoming shorter in general?  Feel free to post your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

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