The most famous short-short story is supposedly Hemingway’s 6-worder:
For sale, baby shoes, never worn.
Six words (or even ten) are almost too few in which to tell an entire story, though Hemingway is proof it can be done. But increasingly, websites and competitions are cropping up, designed to publish fifty, eighty, or one hundred-word stories. The aim with such writing is to not just to describe a snapshot moment or feeling, but to have something happen or change in some way – to fit the entire story arc into a very few words. Obviously, every word has to work, to earn its place – but also important is that which is not stated, that which the reader has to work out for themselves. A good piece of microfiction will force the reader to work.
I’ve had a few attempts at Microfiction, and ‘Map Reading’ (published recently at The Drabble) is my most successful so far. I think, because it’s relatable and universal (a friend said, ‘Oh, you’ve been in our car then!’) and also because, for once, I managed to include ever-elusive subtext – the couple are talking about more than their travel directions. I have a couple more pieces still out at journals – fingers crossed for some positive feedback!