Literary works are placed in different categories according to their contents, forms, styles, and substances. There are different kinds of literary words, for instance, poetry, drama, essay, novel, short story, flash fiction, biography, memoir etc. Amongst these different genres, flash fiction and micro fiction are recent developments.
Evolution and Development of Literary Genres
Poetry: Poetry is the oldest genre in literature. World’s oldest literary works – for instance Odyssey, Iliad, Mahabharata, Ramayana etc. – are written in poetry form. Even the theologies such as the Vedas, the Bible, and the Quran were written in poetry forms.
Drama: Drama evolved after poetry. However, in the beginning there was no segregation between drama and poetry because dramas were also written in poetry forms. Later playwrights began writing drama in prose forms. Some of the ancient dramatists are Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides etc.
Essay: Essay is also an ancient literary genre. Some of the anthologies of essays, which include history, biography, memoir etc. were written before common era. Some of the ancient essayists include Plato, Aristotle etc.
Novel: For thousands of years, poetry, drama and essay were the only recognized genres. Before 17th century, people did not know of novel.
Short Story: Short story, which is very popular literary genre in modern time, is relatively a new genre. Advent of short story is credited to the evolution of newspaper and magazines.
Flash Fiction: By the end of 20th century, a new literary genre developed. A very short short-story was named flash fiction.
Micro Fiction: Micro fiction is the latest trend in creative writing. Some critics do not segregate flash fiction and micro fiction, whereas some believe these two are distinct genres. Micro fiction are shorter in length compared to flash fiction.
What is Flash Fiction?
The oldest literary genre is poetry and the new age literary genre is flash fiction. Flash fiction is a story of very-very short length. It is similar to short story in terms of content, form and substance. The short story elements such as plot, dialogues, characterization, narrative, atmosphere, scene setting are also present in flash fiction; having said that flash fiction may not include every elements of short story (character development, plot, atmosphere, clear beginning, middle, ending etc.)
The major difference between short fiction (short story) and flash fiction is the length. A short story can be a story between two thousand to twenty thousand words, whereas flash fiction is usually less than 1500 words.
Critics have disagreement regarding the length of flash fiction. Some believe flash fiction can be up to 1500 words, while others say a flash fiction should always be below 400 words. Some critics use micro fiction for flash fiction, whereas some differentiate flash fictions and micro fiction as two distinct genres. Those who differentiate flash fiction and micro fiction say micro fictions are stories with couple of sentences and no more than 100 words.
What is Micro Fiction?
Sometimes flash fiction is also called micro fiction. However, some literary critics and scholars strongly object this and differentiate flash fiction and micro fiction. They define flash fiction as a story which is less than 1500 words and micro fiction as very-very short story in one or two short paragraphs.
Micro fiction is a very short story that is less than 100 words. Some believe micro fiction should be less than 50 words. Any sentence that can tell a story in one line is also a micro fiction.
Here is an example of micro fiction.
Once there lived a happy man in a hut, on the top of the hill. One day a woman made through the hill. The man was no more happy.
The aforementioned story contains 29 words and 3 sentences.
“The moment you ask ‘why’ you will be dead,” said God to the Angel.
“Why,” the angel asked.
And he was dead.
The aforementioned story contains 22 words and three sentences.
Note: The authors of these micro fictions are unknown.
Here is an example of flash fiction:
Flash Fiction: Time Lapse
Spot surprises me by jumping on the bed. “I’m reading can’t you see,” I say not deigning to look from the book.
“I want to kill you,” I hear a husky voice.
I’m startled. I look away from the page, the door is locked from inside. I did not hear the voice, I try to rationalize. I take a deep breath.
“I want to kill you,” the voice says again.
“Who are you,” I want to say but my voice chokes. Spot is leaning over me, a dragger on his hand. “I want to kill you,” he says.
This is unbelievable. It’s a dream, it’s a dream…I try to rationalize, but I know it’s not a dream.
Spot stands on his hind limbs. Steel blade sparkles on his forelimb. My mouth hangs open.
Suddenly, Spot’s forelimbs land on my chest.
“I want to kill you,” Spot barks. It’s not a bark actually, he is speaking my language. I feel a terrible tearing on my chest. My voice stops inside my throat. I feel dog’s hair on my mouth.
It’s a dream, it’s a dream, I try to assure myself.
I see a pool of blood over me, my mind reels. I don’t know my eyes are opened or closed, but I see darkness everywhere. Am I losing my consciousness, I don’t know.
I hear noisy commotion. I try to gather myself. I must not sleep.
“Spot is such a wonderful animal,” a woman says.
Who is this woman, I want to look at her, but I cannot figure her out in the darkness.
“He just caught me on my leg and strained to Martha’s house. I did not understand him until I saw Martha lying unconscious in the kitchen.”
What’s she saying? “Spot tried to kill me,” I say. I don’t know if I uttered it loudly because I cannot hear my own voice.
“The burns will leave marks but she will be alright,” I hear a man’s voice.
“Thank God, the cooker did not burst over her face,” the woman says.
What is she saying, who is this woman. I don’t understand what’s going on. I’m losing my consciousness.
(The story contains 360 words. I wrote this story for my creative writing class)
A little bit of self-promotion
I have also published a collection of flash fictions. You can get it from Amazon
People’s War in Nepal: Songs and Narratives From the Frontline is a collection of narrative poems and flash fictions set in Nepal during the time of People’s War (1996-2006). The stories and poems in this book tell the story of pain and suffering of the people at the hands of Communist Guerrilla and the Royal Nepalese Army.
Do you think flash fiction and micro fiction are same?
I don’t know