Why You Should Be Writing Microfiction
“You’ve got two seconds to explain yourself,” were words I heard often growing up. It was a rhetorical statement; my parents knew I couldn’t justify why I broke curfew or received another poor algebra test score, but I’d tackle the challenge regardless. And while I was never able to plead my case, my years of millisecond persuasion did help in developing the skills to write microfiction.
Microfiction, also known as flash fiction, is a (really) short story that still offers the same character and plot development as longer pieces of fiction. The word count can vary, but most clock in under 600 words and sometimes as little as 6 words. While they are a challenge, writing microfiction can be a useful tool to help writers of every genre craft their skill in a number of different ways.
Make Writing Everyday a Reality
Every writer says they’re going to do it, and yet writing every day is one of the hardest habits to keep up with. Whether it’s lack of time, writer’s block, or burn out, it’s hard to get words on the page every single day. Microfiction can help make this goal attainable since the time investment is low and can be done anywhere. A phone’s notepad app, a coffee shop napkin, or the back of a receipt are all acceptable canvases and can help ensure you are getting stories down every single day.
No Telling Allowed
We all know what “show don’t tell” means, but putting the technique into practice can prove to be difficult — especially when writing epic fantasy novels or historical fiction. When writing microfiction, you have zero room for information dumps and must rely on showing to get your story across to the reader while still staying within the strict word count. It’s by far the most challenging aspect of microfiction but also the most beneficial.
Goodbyes Get Easier
We’ve all been there. We write the most beautiful piece of prose — one that made the heavens open up and sing — and then realize it does nothing to move the larger story forward. When writing novels, it’s easy for those pieces of beautiful nothing to get overlooked. When you only have 600 words or less to play with, you’re forced to make every single word aid in plot and character development. Most importantly, microfiction can help magnify some writing habits that need improving on, such as too many dialogue tags or, worse yet, too many adjectives (insert horror movie scream here).
Experiment With Different Genres
Writing outside of your genre can be great practice in helping you strengthen your creative muscle, but it’s sometimes hard to justify spending a large amount of time on a story that can only be considered creative cross-training. Writing microfiction outside of your genre, however, is not only more attainable, but can be a fun challenge. And since the word count is low, you don’t need to worry too much about typical story structure or ensure that your character has a hero’s journey. Writing microfiction outside your genre can be freeing; giving you the chance to play while still sharpening the tools in your writer’s toolbox.
So the next time you’re waiting at the DMV or sitting through another professional development class your job sent you to, jot down a handful of words and write your micro story. Who knows what future novel it may inspire.
Written by Kimberly Straub
Kimberly Straub holds a B.A. in English Literature and Writing from Grand Valley State University. She has placed in numerous writing contests including Scribbler's microfiction contest and has been a guest writer for multiple blogs. When not writing she teaches songwriting classes and plays guitar in Grand Rapids Michigan. Follow her writing journey at @kimberlymariestraub on Instagram.