Microfiction: An Example with Notes from Scribbler Founders
We’d like to begin this post by thanking everyone who submitted to our Microfiction Contest. It’s truly a pleasure reading your amazing work each month, and the amount of talent in this community impresses us constantly. We were especially impressed by the author of our winning entry, Kimberly Straub.
Writing microfiction is tricky to navigate, so we’d love to dive deeper into what makes a great piece of microfiction great. Here is Kimberly Straub’s winning piece with our interlinear notes. Enjoy!
“Rest Stop” by Kimberly Straub
The car emits a steady growl as it idles in front of the rest stop. (This is an excellent opening line. It’s short, succinct, and jumps right into the action. With this genre, there’s not enough space to provide more than one line of contextual details.) Bugs dance in the spotlight of the lampposts; you and the conifers their only audience. (After a singular contextual detail, the main character is estabished: “You”.) You think about turning up the radio or scrolling through his texts from her one more time, but you don’t want him to know you weren’t actually sleeping. Then you might have to talk about the weekend and even though the back seat, filled with camping gear, is evidence of time well spent, you and him know differently. (This piece does an excellent job introducing conflict/tension right off the bat. A must for writing microfiction!) So, you sit and wait and listen to a muffler he promised to fix weeks ago. (We especially enjoy this line, as it suggests the conflict extends beyond the main characters’ current situation.) You think about making an online appointment with a mechanic on your phone right now, but you’re as eager to fix things as he is.
The car door opens and you go back to sleeping, praying the dome light doesn’t give you away. He backs the car out of the parking space. You don’t need to open your eyes to see him rest his hand behind your headrest, twisting his torso to look out the back window. (This is a lovely moment of imagery. Notice how the author incorporates descriptions, contextual details, characterization, and other components of normal-length pieces in such a small amount of space.) You have a rear-view camera but he never uses it. He’s used to doing it this way, so he’s going to keep doing it this way. It’s fine. You’re done asking him to change. The car accelerates and the radio disappears under the muffler’s announcement of departure from the rest stop, forcing you to listen to what’s broken for the rest of the ride home. (One of the main indicators of effective microfiction is the continuous presence of a singular emotion. This is one of the things we love about this piece: how it so beautifully captures indifference, heartbreak, and the oscillation between the two.) You turn your head and open your eyes just wide enough to see his face illuminated by a passing headlight. His jaw is clenched as he looks out at the dark, lonely highway. You wonder what he’s thinking about. You wonder if it’s you or her. You decide you don’t care. (These are excellent closing lines. We love how this ending surprises the reader.)
Not only does this piece exhibit Kimberly’s thoughtful, intelligent prose, it reveals an expert understanding of storytelling.
We’re wishing you all the luck in the world on your writing journey, Scribblers.
Victoria and Lindsay
P.S. We have new writing contests uploaded monthly! To learn more about Scribbler Contests, check out our contests page.