“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”
This is probably the most famous piece of microfiction nowadays. At first sight, this story might seem unfinished, just the pitch for a novel to come. But, unbelievable as it is, Agusto Monterroso told a complete story in nine words and two punctuation marks. This skill, despite being difficult to hone, is dynamic and fun to experiment with. It offers writers an immense amount of possibilities and doesn’t take much time to write.
Micro-stories have bloomed during the last couple of decades, and it is a genre many young writers haven’t heard about. Microfiction has become one of my favorite genres because it is a challenge, and it parts from the thousand-word expectation of the writing community. Do you have a book idea you don’t have time to write, and you don’t want to forget it? Did motivation to write suddenly struck you, but have no idea where to begin? Microfiction might be just what you need.
Note: Micro-stories are part of flash fiction, but they come with their own set of recommendations and guidelines.
Some micro-stories are a sentence long, some include a couple of paragraphs. For me, it still looked like little space to work with. However, I was surprised by the array of possibilities micro-stories have. Here are a few things that might help you to narrow your story down:
Without the title, it’s plain and doesn’t make sense. But Juan Pedro gave us everything we need to know in the title. He’s giving a twist to the infamous “L’état, c’est moi” (I am the state).
Keep It Coherent
The vocabulary chosen for a micro-story must be precise and effective. Most times, you will want to make sure your piece includes the 5 “WH” questions (who, what, when, where, why). This is the rule of microfiction, and it’s important to start from there before going ahead and breaking it.
Punctuation marks are equally important. A coma, an exclamation mark, or a semicolon will help you reduce words, keep the text flowing, and give more meaning to your sentences.
Gabriel García Marquez once said that a novel is won through points, and a short story through knockout. “The Punch” is the part of microfiction that will surprise and impact your readers. It keeps endings open for them to play a “fill in the blank” game. The element that makes “The Dinosaur” so popular is that, once you start asking questions about the story, you just can’t stop. Who woke up? The narrator? The dinosaur? Where are the characters? What is a dinosaur doing there? And so on. It is so out of place it tackles the readers with their guard low and knocks them out.
So, in synthesis…
Microfiction must be brief but shouldn’t overlook coherency. We love it so much because it gives us the ironic and unexpected experience that we’re always searching for. Its goal is for the reading to last seconds, a couple of minutes at best, but keep the reader thinking about it for a long while.
Here are two of my favorite microfiction pieces, which blend all of these elements with surprising accuracy:
Horror Story by Andrés Neuman
I woke up freshly shaved.
This Guy Is A Mine by Luisa Valenzuela
We do not know if it was because of his heart of gold, his health of iron, his temper of steel, or his silver hair. The fact is that the government finally expropriated him, and it is exploiting him. Like it does to all of us.
is a young planster with too much passion and too little time on a day. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, whether they are thoroughly researched flash fiction pieces or improvised bedtime stories.