Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Simple Understanding of Short Fiction

I was talking to a relative during lunch about Kindle singles, flash fiction, and novellas. She shared how she loved following these itty-bitty stories provided by Amazon for .99. She loved them so much that she wanted to try her hand at creating a series of short pieces of fiction dished out in the same bite-size manner. My idea was to encourage her to write one, seeing that she had a story inside of her that she obviously felt needed telling. I urged her to give herself a chance, and starting small was a good move. Just write something, hire a decent editor, if at all possible, and just throw it out there and see what happens. But she still chewed her lip in concerns to how long her story should be. So our discussion turned into the differences between novellas and such. It was interesting trying to decipher the differences.  Eventually, we settled with the fact that we needed to do a little more research. And that’s what I'm bringing here to this post.

So let’s start with the shortest form then work our way up. I learned that the differences in all these short forms of fiction appears mostly in their word count (though that seems apparent, I prefer focusing on page count). Following that notion comes brevity of style, as you probably don't want to get so caught up in prose and details within a limited amount of space.

Flash fiction are stories under 1,000-2,000 words. I guess this would be difficult for someone like me, as I love every scenic detail and morsel of character development available in fiction. Nonetheless, with flash fiction it’s obvious that you have to get to the point of your narrative. These are the kind of stories that provide little to no build up, as the reader is instantly thrown into what may be considered a narrative conflict. I think of it as throwing readers at the emotional peck, or climax, of a story and let their imagination fill in whatever holes lay available. Or something to that extent. Nevertheless, all overtures are tossed aside. It’s sort of like the proverbial knife gone right into the gut. How do you respond? Flash fiction may show you how.

Length wise, short stories are probably a step up from flash fiction. They're somewhere in the realm of 1,000 and 6,000 words. (But seriously, who keeps up with that mess?)  I think short stories differ than flash fiction because it gives you the tiniest of room to present the majors: character, setting, narrative, and conflict. Each wrapped in a handy theme.  I kind of get the feeling that short stories take on a far more thematic approach than flash fiction. Actually, I would guess that short stories line its bases in a theme of some sort. Immediate to mind I think about the Chinese superstition that you shouldn't sweep your floor on New Year’s Day because you may sweep away bad luck. You can take that uncomplicated concept, decorate it with the "majors," and give a nice consequential conclusion as to why you have to honor that superstition. All in a simple, quick story.

The novelette just boggles me. describes a novelette as “a brief novel or long short story.” I never even considered such a thing; I probably would've touted a novelette as a short story. Nevertheless, it’s really a middle child in all of this. The Jan Brady in the mix. A novelette gives itself probably a stretch or two more narrative room unavailable in a short story; however, it doesn't jump completely into the involvedness that makes up a novel or novella. So I would assume a novelette’s word count (should it matter) would arrive somewhere between 8,000 and 20,000 words. Just guessing of course. So in essences, it’s a touch longer than a short story while not considering it a short story. I guess…. And I say “I guess” because I’ve probably heard of a novelette in passing, but never gave it a thought until I actually looked up the subject of fiction short forms. It’s a cute word, if anything else.

Last–but not last–we have the novella. This is the one everyone is familiar with. It’s a novel that’s not a novel... exactly. It’s a short form fiction far more intricate than its common comparison, the short story. It’s a short novel, or it has just about everything that makes a novel except for a lower word count. Even that sounds unrehearsed and superficial. But I digress. Everyone knows what a novella is.

And that’s basically my understanding, guys.  A touch self-deprecating, but most certainly told in my own words. Nonetheless, a less than thorough understanding of the different forms of fiction. Don't quote me on any of this! Just pray that I take the time to produce some kind of work out of either of them–along with that relative I spoke of.

Add any ideas or thoughts about these fiction short forms in the comments below.  Expand our understanding.  And share whether you have a healthy appreciation for any one form.

Carry on.

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