Tall And True Microfiction (eBook)
I discovered the microfiction genre when I reviewed Loopholes by Susan McCreery for Writing NSW in 2017. The microfiction in Loopholes ranges from several paragraphs on one or two pages to only three short sentences.
By definition, brevity is the key to good microfiction. There is no time for plot and character development, so every word must count. In Loopholes, McCreery plunges the reader into perfectly formed glimpses of everyday lives, with no time to settle in and catch our breath before wrenching us back to reflect on what we’ve read, what may have led to the situation, and how it might end.
The genre will not be to everyone’s taste. Some readers may consider it a modern malaise, where the pace of life has become too fast to enjoy a leisurely read. Or Twitteresque, with US Presidential pronouncements delivered in 280-character tweets. And yet, microfiction is not a recent form. For example, legend has it that in response to a challenge to write a six-word novel, Ernest Hemingway wrote: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Dabbling in Microfiction
As I wrote in my review, I started “dabbling in microfiction” after reading Loopholes. I had a short story in my writing folder, Her, written in 1992 following a dream that felt so real it reminded me of the 3rd century BC Chinese philosopher Chuang Chou.
One night, Chou dreamed he was a butterfly, “fluttering hither and thither, enjoying itself to the full of its bent”, unaware he was Chou. When Chou awoke, he was himself again but later observed, “I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”
I didn’t dream I was a butterfly. Instead, I dreamed I’d bumped into someone I once knew while walking along the Promenade in Brighton, England (where I then lived). And I used elements from the dream to write a surreal short story. But at only 460 words, Her was too short for the genre. So I filed it away until 2017 when I revisited the story and shared it as microfiction.
At the same time, I revisited other short pieces in my writing folder, There Is No Need To Wake Up and And I Didn’t Even Get Convicted, which I’d written for local radio station competitions in 2000 and 2014. I also started writing shorter microfiction, like A Mona Lisa Smile and We Need to Talk, in 2018 and 2019.
COVID lockdowns provided the perfect environment for writing microfiction, such as Pandemic Fiction for Meanjin magazine, Elephant in the Room & Other 23-Word Stories, and Signs of the Second Coming in 2020 and 2021.
In recent years, challenges by Writing NSW, the Australian Writers’ Centre and the #WritingCommunity on Twitter had me writing dozens of microfiction stories. And in March 2023, I set myself the goal of writing a 61-word story to mark my 61st birthday.
Tall And True Microfiction
This anthology, drawn from the Tall And True writers’ website and other sources, features 70 examples of my microfiction. Some are Hemingway-esque six-word stories, others one to a few sentences, and there are longer pieces, like the 460-word Her. I’ve presented the stories in chronological chapters, with insight into when, why and how I wrote them.
I’ve also provided links to story prompts on social media and episodes if I’ve narrated stories for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast. And I wrote a new piece of microfiction for the final chapter, The End, 70 words long, one for each story in the anthology.
I hope you enjoy Tall And True Microfiction as much as I enjoyed creating it. Perhaps the anthology will inspire you to “dabble in the form” like Susan McCreery’s Loopholes did for me in 2017.
© 2023 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You might also be interested in my first eBook collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story.
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 storytelling 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 contact Robert for further details.