Flash Fiction October 2016 – “Between”

frombeyond
“From Beyond” artwork by Mike Dubisch at http://www.hyaenagallery.com/dubisch/frombeyond.jpg

I admit it, I’m currently on a real kick for Horror fiction in general and HP Lovecraft in particular. Maybe it’s the time of year; the evenings draw in, there’s a catch in your breath from the cold air, it’s Halloween season, and your thoughts turn to cosmic horror and undying gods beyond the stars and under the sea…

I love that there’s such a rich HPL vein to mine these days; I remember having to order a copy of HPL’s collected works from another library, upon first discovering him as a teenager; I’m happy that his genius is more widely recognised now, and there’s a plethora of books, websites, artwork, (see the top picture for a great example from Mike Dubisch) graphic novels and podcasts, as well as a few interesting films based on his stories in the pipeline.

I recently discovered a great podcast that discusses Lovecraft’s literary output, it’s really worth a listen: The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast; Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer have some great readers and special guests and I can really recommend it; most of the HPL podcasts are on iTunes for free.

I also tracked down (in the US) a yellowed and battered paperback copy of a collection of short stories called “The Shuttered Room”, supposedly completed from unfinished HPL notes and ideas, but in reality probably wholly written by Lovecraft’s literary champion, August Derleth. I’m enjoying the stories so far, adding as they do to the Lovecraftian mythos. There’s even a 1967 creepy British film based on the title story featuring the late great Oliver Reed!

All this cosmic otherworldliness got me thinking,and my submission to the 101fiction’s Halloween edition had to be an HPL tribute – I plumped on an homage to “From Beyond“, an unsettling tale of a mad scientist’s (mad in both senses of the word, the guy has a grudge!) quest to see and interact with the unseeable things that inhabit the air, unbeknownst to mankind.

I’m really pleased to announce that this 100-word story, “Between“, is featured in the special Halloween edition 13 of 101fiction; please do have a read of it and the other great short fiction published by John Xero.

I hope you like the story! You don’t need to have read Lovecraft to (hopefully) enjoy it, but if you have, I hope it adds a small extra frisson to your reading experience…

Flash Fiction April 2016 – “The Expedition”

Plumtree blossom copyright M. McGoverne
Plum tree blossom, the author’s garden, 2013

Today I’ve had a piece of flash fiction published at Ad Hoc Fiction, a Bath Flash Fiction Award project.

The title of my story is “The Expedition” – it was published in the 27/4/16 weekly edition, but if you have difficulty locating it in the Flash eBook format, I’ve saved a copy for your perusal here!

As with much of my writing recently, this is another short story based on one of my childhood adventures.

Please do visit the site and have a read of (and vote for!) the stories featured; Ad Hoc Fiction provides a great platform for flash fiction writing; the most-voted-for stories win the authors free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award.

Margaret

Flash Fiction March 2016 Part II- “The Poke”

This is just a quick night post to proudly announce that one of my flash fiction stories has been published by Richard Hearn at Paragraph Planet, a brilliant creative writing site that has published one 75-word story every day since 2008. I’m very pleased to have my story featured as the  27th March entry!

Please check the site out, it has an archive of all 1,600 plus stories published, as well as author interviews and bios.

My story’s title is “The Poke”. and it was inspired by my childhood in Belfast, which was vividly brought back to me by the above picture, which I found when adding pins to my Pinterest board And the Buntings Flew.

Margaret

It’s Been a While… News (And Micro Fiction Published!) Update

Dear Constant Reader,

Firstly, apologies for this blog being a non-event recently; I’m only just recovering from a particularly long-winded chest infection during which writing of any form dwindled to nothing as my constant phlegmy cough precluded everything but itself.

But I’m back in the saddle – I’m finishing off chapter 6 of And The Buntings Flew; the story is really picking up pace now, and I’m pleased with how it’s going.

Also, I had my very first piece of micro-fiction published!!! You can check it out here at the excellent Fiftywordstories.com. It’s a quirky love-and-redemption story. If you enjoy the story, please feel free to “like” it!

It’s good to be back. I’m writing up an article on finding the motivation to write, and I’m happy to have the bit between my teeth (a couple of horsey metaphors in this post, not sure why!) and a mouse back in my hand again.

Margaret

How Low Can You Go? Novels, Novellas and The Renaissance in Short and Micro Fiction

It had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!
(The Shrinking Man)

I’m starting to flex my writing muscles now! As well as working on my novel, And The Buntings Flew, the past few months have been increasingly creative for me; I’ve rediscovered the joy of writing short fiction. I have a couple of stories with magazines right now, and will post links if/when they’re published, but this has caused me to relearn what actually constitutes a “short story”.

When I was younger, the advice for budding writers was, avoid short stories – unless you were already a successful author, short stories simply weren’t something publishers were interested in, as they didn’t sell well. But recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of the short story; which is undoubtedly linked to new technology and possibly to our decreased attention spans.

The short story has more platforms than ever with which we can engage; reading War and Peace on our phone or tablet may not be an attractive proposition, and many readers may not wish to engage with 1,000 page epics, with today’s hectic lifestyle that has many tied 24-7 to a Blackberry or to work via emails, but the short story is more manageable in terms of time spent on mobile devices and in terms of attention span. They give us a “quick fix” of literature, in a quick fix, espresso age.

The rise in online platforms for both published and unpublished writers has also exploded, and more writing is “out there” – short stories provide the perfect taster to a writer’s works, and are a useful and easily sampled “try before you buy” for longer works.. Platforms such as Blogs, and latterly sites such as Smashwords,and  Amzon’s Kindle Singles, where authors post short stories from 99p or even in the case of Smashwords, for no charge, have transformed the genre.

So all of this is great news for people like me who enjoy writing and want to make their work quickly accessible, and also to build a reputation. Where I lagged behind was understanding the classification of fiction in terms of length, which have moved apace with the electronic revolution; when is a short story not a short story, but a piece of flash fiction, or a novelette, or even Twitfic?!

Discerning minds need to know, so I’ve listed below the main categories for fiction with some of my favourite examples; which ones do you prefer? It should be stressed however that although stories can be categorised by word length, this isn’t the whole story – the nature and depth of the story being told also determines where the story is most at home, category wise.

The Novel

The novel is generally recognised as being a work of fiction between 80,000 to 95,000 words; furthermore the novel is expected to reflect broad aspects of the human condition. So far so good, although there are broadly accepted variation by genre for the average novel length; for example commercial literary fiction and romance novels tend to be shorter than for example crime and historical fiction.  Literary Rejections has a good summary of these genre guidelines.

“The Hobbit” and “1984” are two of my favourite, typical length novels (80-95,000 words)

The Novella

I wasn’t aware how many of my favourite books were actually novellas until I was writing up this post: most authorities and literary awards define a novella as being between 17,500 and 40,000 words in length.  Based on this criterion, “Animal Farm”, “The Metamorphosis”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “A Clockwork Orange” are novellas. What these stories have in common, and what defines the novella is that they obviously explore more back story than a short story, but cannot develop themes and conflicts in as much detail as a full-blown novel.  For stories like my favourites listed above, I think the common factor is there is a single vision or message the author is relating, and the concentrated length of the novella delivers this message to us, undiluted by lengthy character development.

The Novelette

The novelette is the baby brother of the novella, or an overgrown short story, based on your viewpoint. Historically, novelettes tended to be seen as trivial stories, mainly romances, but there is now a recognised category for this work, particularly in the Science fiction genre. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies that a novelette is a work between 7,500 and 17,500 words, and has a category for novelettes word lengths as part of its Nebula award. 

I admit, I’ve struggled to find any examples of novelettes that I’m familiar with – most fall between novella and short story; please comment if you can enlighten me!

The Short Story

The short story is generally agreed to be a work between  3000 – 7,500 words, although if flash fiction is generally considered to be from 300 – 1,00 words (see below), in theory the short story is any work between 1,000 and 7,500 words.  Think short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Roald Dahl, Stephen King and James Joyce’s “Dubliners” collection. Online Classics has a great list of 50 of the best short stories of all time you might like to check out.

Flash Fiction

Although the term “Flash Fiction” has relatively recent provenance, very short stories have been around for several thousand years – think Aesop’s Fables, from the first century BC. Flash fiction is a short-short story which still contains the main elements of a complete story, such as a protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and some sort of resolution. In this way Flash fiction differs from a vignette,which tends to concentrate on a given slice of time or an impression of character, or setting.  Flash fiction also differs from the traditional short story in that the limitation on word lengths requires that some elements of the story are absent, or merely hinted at. As noted above the platform for flash fiction has widened enormously with the advent of online and mobile platforms.

I currently have two flash fiction stories submitted to online publications; they’re a great distraction from my longer novel, they flex different writing muscles and they’re a much quicker means to bring your writer’s voice to a wider audience. Which brings us to…..

Micro Fiction

I have to admit this was where I was lagging behind the times, but there are lots of great Blogs out there that helped bring me up to date;  Karen Woodward’s Three Kinds of Micro Fiction introduced me to the Drabble and the Twabble, neither of which I’d heard of before!

The Drabble

A drabble is generally held to be a story of around 100 words or less; the challenge clearly being to write something entertaining and engaging with such a tight restriction. Most prominent in the Drabble genre seems to be Sci-fi, Fantasy and Fan-fic; the Drabblecast on Twitter showcases typical drabble works. Drabble contests often consist not only of a word limit, but also a time constraint. Drablr.com is a site dedicated to publishing 100 word fiction pieces.

55 Fiction

This was another new one for me; a variant of the Drabble, 55 fiction is micro fiction, limited to no more than 55 words. There are fairly strict requirements for a piece of work to be considered 55 fiction in addition to the word count; the story must still contain a setting, at least one character, and an element of conflict and resolution. The title of the piece is usually restricted to no more than seven words. 

Twitfic/Nanofiction

My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!” (The Shrinking Man, Richard Matheson)

And so to the ultimate (so far) in micro fiction. Twitfic, or Nanofiction, refers to stories up to 140 characters; the limit for a single tweet. The need to make ourselves understood in such a small space has given rise to the Twitfic phenomenon; (tiny) bite size pieces of fiction. #twitfic throws up an array of micro fiction, as do many dedicated Twitter pages and websites – Daily Twitfic and Nanoisn.net are two good examples. I haven’t got to grips yet with using Twitter as a communication tool, much less as a story form, but I might have a go; watch this space!

Until we follow Scott Carey, the Incredible Shrinking Man, on his journey to zero, Twitfic/Nanofiction is the smallest category of fiction recognised, but I have no doubt we will see even more compact and bijou literature in the near future!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments; what’s your favourite form and length of fiction, and do you read (or write) Flash or Micro fiction?