My name’s Emma and I love writing microfiction. There, I said it. I’m not sure I have a novel in me (although the novella is in the planning stages) but adore writing to tiny word counts. If you’ve kept up with me for any time over the past six months or so, you’ll know I’ve been ill and lost most of my creative urges.
More recently, I’ve been wanting to write again. I managed a 3750-word steampunk pirate story, which was out of my usual genre and great fun, although I did have to fight my hearty crew all the way to keep the story under control. I’m still struggling to find ideas though and a few days ago, saw the #VSS365 hashtag on Twitter again. I was vaguely aware it was a writing prompt (“very short stories”) and this time, followed the rabbit hole to find their website and signed up to receive the daily prompt by email.
So far, I’ve written four stories and it’s great fun. My start point, whether I know the word or not, is the dictionary as that gives me a context and a few moments for idea generation to start. And then I start to play with it in my mind, rolling it around and poking at it.
Microfiction, also known as nanofiction is, as its name suggests, written for brevity. It is generally defined as having a word count of fewer than 300 words and is a subdivision of flash fiction.
For example, groke (“to groke is to gaze at somebody while they’re eating in the hope that they’ll give you some of their food.” [reference]) brings to mind the pitiful eyes of a pet dog or cat but, what if… it was less cute? Okay, so… an octopus. But, what would it groke at? Oh, well, easy: lunch. But, what if… it was a little… murdery..? But, why? And that was my ‘aha’ moment.
The octopus stared longingly from its cramped tank. The lab researchers called it 'Groke' because it seemed to look harder when they were eating, looking like it was hungry and wanted their lunch.
They were mostly right. It didn't want their sandwiches though…#vss365
— Emma K. Leadley (@autoerraticism) September 15, 2020
There’s something very freeing about a small word count — it’s not overwhelming, doesn’t take long to write, and is a real chance to play with an idea. It also forces me to think about my word choices more – active voice uses fewer words than passive voice, adverbs get cut, phrasing becomes tighter.
Whether it’s a drabble (exactly 100 words) or fitting my story into a single tweet, it feels like real creativity. I have my idea and then have to convey that without going over those limits. It’s chipping away at each part and making it the best it can be. Sometimes the story is very similar to its start point, other times, it’s a very different beast. and it’s also an opportunity to learn ‘when is it too much’? I’ve ruined stories in the past by overworking them, so it’s a valuable experience in all directions.
Now, my brain is starting to fire a bit better and ideas are coming easier. Having a prompt, whether from VSS365, Storyin12 or elsewhere is a great way to develop plots and concepts in directions I wouldn’t have come up with by myself.
There’s also the chance to see the work of other participants — the diversity from one prompt is inspiring in itself — and it’s a very supportive, friendly community from everything I’ve seen.