Q: When is a short story not a short story?

A: When it’s a short short story.

I was looking up something about flash fiction when I saw the term ‘drabble’ and had a frozen moment.  I’ve since discovered there are a variety of different and very specific terms for short fiction.  Here are the main ones I found thanks to Wikipedia and a little bit of extra net-surfing.

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.

Other names for flash fiction include sudden fictionmicro fictionmicro-storyshort shortpostcard fiction, and short short storyFrance calls them nouvelles. In China they use several names: little short story, pocket-size story, minute long story, palm sized story, and the smoke long story (to be read in the same time it takes a person to smoke a cigarette).

A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title.

mini saga is a short piece of writing containing exactly 50 words, plus a title of up to 15 words.  Mini sagas are alternately known as micro stories and ultra-shorts.

Haibun (俳文) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. The range of haibun is broad and frequently includes autobiographydiaryessayprose poemshort story and travel journal.

Vignette (literary) is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.

A fable is a succinct fictional story that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature with human qualities that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be added explicitly in a pithy maxim.  A widely recognised publication of these are Aesop’s Fables.

parable is a succinct story which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters.

frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it.

sketch story, or sketch, is a piece of writing that is generally shorter than a short story, and contains very little, if any, plot. The genre was invented in the 16th Century in England, as a result of increasing public interest in realistic depictions of “exotic” locales. The term was most popularly-used in the late nineteenth century. As a literary work, it is also often referred to simply as the sketch.

story pun (also known as a poetic story joke or Feghoot) is a humorous short story or vignette ending in an atrocious pun (typically a play on a well-known phrase) where the story contains sufficient context to recognize the punning humor.


2 thoughts on “Q: When is a short story not a short story?

  1. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge: Spin The Wheel Of Conflict | Jen's Pen Den

  2. Pingback: Monday Minis #13 ~ The Man In The Fire | fuonlyknew

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