As a regular swimmer, I set birthday challenges to match my age in laps from 55 in 2017 to 57 in 2019. (Let’s skip 2020!) Then, after tearing both shoulders, I read 59 chapters in 2021 and 60 in 2022. But I wanted to do something different when I turned 61 on 30 March this year. So I wrote a 61-word birthday story.
I’ve written a lot of microfiction since discovering the genre when reviewing Susan McCreery’s collection, Loopholes (shared on Tall And True), for Writing NSW in 2017. As I quoted in the review, Wiktionary.org defines it as:
“Fiction that has a significantly shorter than average length.” Synonyms include drabble, flash fiction, flashfic, short-short story, sudden fiction and even twitterature.
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Shorter Short Stories
After the Loopholes review, I revisited some shorter short stories from my ideas folder that I felt fitted the microfiction genre and shared them on Tall And True:
- And I Didn’t Even Get Convicted
- Escape to the Beach
- Signs of the Second Coming
- There Is No Need To Wake Up
Two of the five are similar-length stories to the microfiction in Loopholes. But the other three are longer, 400 to 460-word pieces.
And this underscores the elasticity of the definition of the genre, which also encompasses my favourite regular writing challenge, the 500-word Furious Fiction run by the Australian Writers’ Centre (Writers’ Centre).
Even Shorter Pieces
As I grew more confident writing microfiction, I started sharing even shorter pieces, like those found in Loopholes:
- A Mona Lisa Smile: A one-sentence story I wrote inspired by an old colour photo of my dad from the 1970s.
- Elephant in the Room & Other 23-Word Stories: A “tiny fiction” challenge run by the Writers’ Centre during the middle of the COVID lockdown in July 2020.
- First Friday Fix – 50 Word Story Challenge: Run by the Writers’ Centre in January 2022 for their inaugural First Friday Fix (which also featured my profile as a Furious Fiction Fan).
- Meanjin Pandemic Fiction: Stories on Twitter about the COVID pandemic in 2020.
- We Need to Talk: A tweet-length story for a competition run by Meanjii magazine to mark the introduction of 280-character Twitter.
- We Need to Talk in 29 Words: A reworked version of We Need to Talk for the Writers’ Centre’s 29-word competition in 2019.
One of my shorter microfiction pieces was among the winners of a Twitter challenge by Writing NSW in November 2021 to celebrate their 30th Anniversary, #30words30days30years.
I wrote the longer, 100-word The Blank Screen for another Writing NSW brief in February 2022, “Write a love letter to your writing community”, reflecting how I interact with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter!
My 61-Word Story
Drawing on all my microfiction experience, could I write a 61-word story for my birthday?
I’m 61 today. Will you swim 61 laps? No, I’ve torn my shoulders. 61 pushups? My shoulders, remember! Jog? No, my knees will seize. Ride 61 kilometres? Are you joking!? Then, why not read 61 chapters? Because it makes reading a chore. So what will you do? I’ll write a 61-word story and be grateful I’m here to write it.
Did I enter these words on my computer on 30 March? No, but I composed the story in my head on the day. And setting aside the usual editing changes, it’s how I visualised it, especially the ending.
So I’m claiming I met my birthday challenge to write a 61-word story. And thankfully (and with luck), I’ve got another year before the next one!
PS. I’m participating in April’s #30Words30Days writing challenge on Twitter, tweeting a 30-word story inspired by a daily prompt. And I’ll blog about this, with my stories, after April.
© 2023 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You may like to read more about my Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast.
Note: This post originally appeared on Tall And True.
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of Robert Fairhead. A writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, Robert also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media, and he's published several collections of short stories. Please see Robert's profile for further details.