The Incredible Shrinking Story

Ran Walker
2 min readAug 15, 2018

Something rather peculiar has been happening with my writing over the past few years. It started with me writing shorter and shorter novels. Then I became obsessed with novellas. There was a brief fascination with novelettes before I began to dive back into short stories. And that’s when it got really interesting.

To be honest, I must admit my fascination with miniatures really coalesced over the past two years. I went from poster-size art to paintings that were 5x7" and smaller. I started buying music EPs, instead of LPs. I started to appreciate and value what could be accomplished in much smaller spaces. That eventually led me past short stories into an area commonly referred to as flash fiction, which most people will say are stories told in under 1,000 words.

To write flash fiction, the writer has to really zero in on the impactful part of a story and tell that part, while implying everything else. And if you think that’s a challenge, then the next part of my quest for miniaturization of literature would be even more startling: micro fiction.

Micro fiction is a story told in three hundred words or less, which leads very quickly to drabbles (100-word stories) and dribbles (50-word stories). There are even people out there writing six-word stories (for which Smith magazine is best known). I’m sure most people are aware of the “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” story often erroneously attributed to Hemingway. The bottom line is a writer can get a lot of story out there with the right set of words.

It seems as if everything in my creative writing universe leans toward the smallest thing, and I can’t seem to figure out how all of this happened. One might blame it on a decreasing attention span, but I think that notion belittles the art. I sense it has much more to do with the power of language to convey ideas. The very thing that is the lifeblood of poetry is the lifeblood of flash fiction and its subparts.

I have written seven novels and four novellas, but I doubt I have been as creatively challenged as I am when I tackle these tiny pieces of fiction. And, thankfully, there are a plethora of places to publish them. A simple Google search reveals hundreds of possible places to submit.

I’m not sure how long I will be in this space of literary miniaturism, but I’m enjoying the evolution of what’s happened so far. I imagine one day people will try to get down to one-word stories (or even no-word stories using just punctuation), and who knows, I might just try those, too.

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