Twitter fiction and six-word stories have permeated the literary world, but the concept of telling very short tales isn't exactly new. H.P. Lovecraft and Lydia Davis have both penned what has come to be known as flash fiction -- brief stories with no precise length constraints, but that don't typically exceed 1,000 words.
Flash fiction differs from other short written works in that it generally features a traditional story arc -- an evocative scene that doesn't have a beginning, middle or end wouldn't qualify, which is why it's a tough medium to tackle.
The following stories are longer than six words or 140 characters, but, if you read at the same speed as the average American adult (300 words per minute), each will take you about two minutes to get through, more or less. Each has been selected from a different literary magazine, and each offers its own solution to the problem of fitting a full and fulfilling narrative into a very small space.
Check out these 15 amazing works of contemporary flash fiction:
"Before the Storm"
by Alex Sheal, published by 3:AM Magazine
First sentence: I met her in a cocktail bar, but she wasn’t working as a waitress.
by John Keene, published by TriQuarterly
First sentence: The canoe scudded to a stop at the steep, rocky shore.
"A Man Without Shoes"
by Per Petterson, published by A Public Space
First sentence: Dad had a face that Arvid loved to watch, and at the same time made him nervous as it wasn’t just a face but also a rock in the forest with its furrows and hollows, at least if he squinted when he looked.
by Scott Stealey, published by Smokelong Quarterly
First sentence: Kevin first shuffled out of the woods a few months ago while I was playing my zither in the backyard.
"Sorry Dan, but It's No Longer Necessary For A Human To Serve as CEO of This Company"
By Erik Cofer, published by McSweeney's
First sentence: I like you, Dan, I really do.
by Sabrina Orah Mark, published by The Collagist
First sentence: A lot of my friends are following the Rabbi so I start following the Rabbi too.
by Sejal Shah, published by Conjunctions
First sentence: The map was printed on a handkerchief.
"If She Were to Lay Down"
by Molia Dumbleton, published by The Kenyon Review
First sentence: Sarah couldn’t help but think that even at the age of twenty-four, Jesse bore the exact shape of a grizzly.
by Sarah Gerkensmeyer, published by American Short Fiction
First sentence: Ramona used to say, "When it’s on the outside I feel self-conscious."
By Simon Harris, published by Flash
First sentence: According to tradition, there were three choices: marriage, revenge or goats.
by Melissa Goodrich, published by Word Riot
First sentence: All of the boys in school are breaking their hands.
by Sandra Gail Lambert, published by Brevity
First sentence: We’re in single file, led by an American flag with stars in the shape of a wheelchair, and headed to the convention hotel that I still think we’re going to picket.
by John Smolens, published by PANK
First sentence: When your wife dies you find music tastes different and food sounds the same.
by Christopher Moyer, published by Hobart
First sentence: In the middle of our city are the woods, which are full of animals.
"War of the Clowns"
by Mia Couto, published by The Massachusetts Review
First sentence: One time two clowns set themselves to arguing.