• Robin Martin
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“I like the feeling of words doing as they want to do and as they have to do.”

Does this line of Gertrude Stein’s help justify-for the pen and paper types-the digitalization of language? If words are doing what they have to do in the age of txt msging, they are changing as fast as technology. It’s all about brevity in a Twitter message, an e-mail, a text message, and, I’m finding more recently, business proposals, employee handbooks, etc. If you can say it concisely in 150 words or less, you must.

So now we move to fiction. Judging from the books my partner reads, long epic tomes of fantasy and science fiction, extra words have not gone out of style. Many of the Popular Fiction books I get from Sac/SF Book Review also rely on too many (IMO) words.

If you know me, you know I enjoy flash fiction: Smokelong Quarterly, Quick Fiction, Mississippi Review and the like. And this tends to be what I write as well.

I recently became part of the Narrative editorial team of five that reads iStory submissions; 150-word stories that, in order for Narrative to publish them, are supposed to be complete, have multiple layers of meaning, and utilize stunning language to do so. These stories are designed for the new Narrative iPhone application. Tiny screen. Economy of space.  I am proud to say I found a great one as it entered the gate, I’m not sure I can reveal here the name of the author, but it made it all the way up to the top of the editorial gatekeepers and will be published and available shortly. I’ll post a link once it’s up, or you can keep checking Narrative.

My advice for writing a great short short story:

  • Avoid fancy/old fashioned words but also avoid “to be” verbs like they are ringworm.
  • Descriptive nouns and verbs work best to tell a story in few words.
  • Sometimes the thesaurus is necessary to find the most precise language to convey exact meaning.
  • Do nothing trite or cliche.
  • Make sure your narrator is working with you.

Read good short shorts. Be familiar with your audience before you submit anything. Mississippi Review prints great stuff that would never get printed in Narrative and vice versa.


Author: Robin Martin

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