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Literary Fiction Genres

Short Fiction Liturature Subgenres

Fiction Genre Definitions


Short Fiction Subgenres


(Definitions and Examples - All)

Short (also 'short-short' or rarely, 'sudden') fiction is precisely that. It can encompass any of the other genres, and is defined by its sparse word count instead--plus these works should comprise a complete and readworthy tale.


55 Fiction is the only subgenre 'name' listed by the Literary Fiction Genres project that is copyrighted. (It is included here due to its widespread positive impact upon literacy and authorship.) The concept was originated in 1987 by Steve Moss of the weekly newspaper New Times in Santa Barbara, California. Each of these stories, categorized by major genre, must be exactly 55 words long.
After publishing two excellent story collections, Mr. Moss passed away in 2005. A blog continued his work through 2009.

Drabble refers to a story that is precisely one hundred words long. The term itself was coined in 1971, in the Monty Python publication The Big Red Book. Actual stories were first published in several British collections, beginning with The Drabble Project in 1988, edited by Rob Meades and David Wake. (More recently, Reader's Digest magazine has been publishing such tales, however by another name.)

Flash fiction (often shortened to 'flash fic') has a loose definition. Most publications regard it as stories from about 150 to 1000 words in length, though some will extend the limit to 1200 (rarely 1500) words. The term and formal subgenre, though not the general concept, probably began in 1992 with the anthology Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka. Joy Williams is a contemporary master of this subgenre, as with her collection Ninety-Nine Stories of God. (The format lends itself to digest-style print magazines, and 'ezine' web sites, and it's quite popular in those venues.)

Microfiction refers to stories under one hundred words in length. A clear example is the 1996 anthology Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome Stern. Several web sites incorporate the name and concept. (As is often the case with the Short Fiction genre, many of these stories will have a twist ending.)

Pinhead stories (also known as 'nanofiction' and similar terms) is an informal yet widespread designation for stories under fifty words in length. Several venues promote this subgenre via contests and other activities. (To facilitate the creation of actual stories, with so little to work with, usually the editor will specify a theme in advance.)

Six Word stories are exactly that. By any measure, such tales are the very shortest of all the subgenres. These have enjoyed popularly, and challenged major authors, over many decades. For example, Ernest Hemingway is said to have written: "For sale, baby shoes, never used." (These stories do not necessarily follow a designated theme, and tend to be poignant rather than have a twist ending.)

Twitterfic is one of the newest known subgenres. It is a creative spinoff of the popular Twitter communications service, and is promoted by several writer's organizations. Each story must fit within one Twitter post (or 'tweet') of fewer than 140 characters.


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