About time I wrote another one of these. Today we’re going to delve into the concept of micropastas!
A lot of the micropastas you see get deleted, many times right off the bat. Many of them are completely pointless and anticlimactic, or they’re something that if you tacked “And then a skeleton popped out” on the end, it would become a trollpasta.
I'm generally really touchy with micropastas, but I’m not going to delete them if they’re good. Here’s something to help make them so.
A lot of people have said micropastas aren’t “plot-driven” or don’t need a plot due to their length. What is a micropasta, though? A story that is shorter than 300 words, if I’m not mistaken.
Stories have to have a plot. It’s not a story if there isn’t one, and that applies to these as well. The events that are in it may be minor, but it’s still a plot.
Basically, you can’t describe a terrible event with imagery and only use that singular event. Other events have to happen as well. A story is basically a cause-and-effect type thing. Take Mother’s Call, for example.
“A young girl is playing in her bedroom when she hears her mother call to her from the kitchen, so she runs downstairs to meet her mother.
As she's running through the hallway, the door to the cupboard under the stairs opens, and a hand reaches out and pulls her in. It's her mother. She whispers to her child, "Don't go into the kitchen. I heard it too.””
See there? That is a micropasta. And it has a plot. Young girl playing – Hears mother calling – Goes to find her – Gets pulled into cupboard – Mother tells her not to go into the kitchen because she heard the calling too. That is a plot. Not a descriptive paragraph of the being or thing in the kitchen, but a plot. You need that.
On that note, it needs to be more than two events. A descriptive paragraph about the sun exploding or a nuclear apocalypse and then everybody dying isn’t a story. It’s an event and result. That’s not a story. It doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and nothing good enough happened to make the reader think.
Description and Imagery!
In a micropasta, there isn’t much room for description and imagery, and such. Your events need to be less descriptive and your plot clear, concise, and uninterrupted. The goal is basically to use as few words as possible to get your point across.
That isn’t to say creative wording isn’t welcome; don’t make your sentences excessively bland. There’s no feeling in it, which is hard to capture in these kind of stories.
But when it comes down to it, there isn’t room for excess description in micropastas. Description is like a grounded plug in. You can plug it into a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t fit in to two-pronged receptacles. Micropastas are basically that.
Suspense and Mystery
What’s the best way to get a reader to think on your point? Making it mysterious or suspenseful, of course. This is most commonly through build-up, but in a micropasta, you don’t have the word-count to do that.
So how do you do it? You basically tell nothing about an element, yet still make the element a part of the story. Look at the micro I used as an example above. See how they say absolutely nothing about the thing in the kitchen? That can be anything. A being, a ghost, your great grandmother, the possibilities are endless.
Basically, don’t be afraid to leave something out for a sense of wonder. Just make sure you do it right. If it’s around a being or something, don’t tell about it. Imply that it’s there, but don’t blow it out of the water.
Feel free to add to this. I’m generally very picky with micro-pastas so I tend not to go into a lot of detail with them. I also find it a tad difficult to say a lot about them, due primarily to their length. There literally isn’t much to tell about them.
I already know that Steam Phoenix has written on the subject, but I feel like a second perspective may help. If this blog is viewed as helpful, I will be adding my section onto her already good advice page. So why is it necessary to make a section of guidelines/tips on how to effectively tell flash fiction? I’m doing this because as of late, we have gotten a number of short stories that were deleted for not being up to quality standards. Much like poetry, writing a short story seems deceptively easy when in fact it is not and has its own challenges.
What is a Micropasta?
A micropasta is a short story ranging from one sentence to a few paragraphs that manages to tell a story effectively despite its limitations. When told well, they can be entertaining, but due to their length, effectively writing one poses a number of challenges this blog will attempt to answer.
Why is a micropasta so damn hard to write?
Speaking from experience, writing a short story is difficult. This section will highlight a few things that are important for writing a good micropasta.
- It is effectively told, sets up the story, and has a satisfying resolution.
Here is an example: “The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” Those two sentences are all that that story needs. The first one sets up the premise and the second sentence delivers the climax/resolution. You can take that story and flesh out the premise (as I did with Post-Apocalyptic Solitude) or it can be left as it is and still tell an entertaining story.
What you should avoid in regards to this. The short story should not come off like a premise. Here is an example of a story that needs work: “I saw a monster in the woods today. It attacked me and I died.” Much like the aforementioned story, has a plot and a climax, but what separates them is efficacy. Knock can be left as it is, or it can be fleshed out and still tell a complete story. “Forrest Monster” (Copyright) ‘’’needs’’’ to be fleshed out as it feels incomplete/unfinished without detail.
- It uses its limited space to its advantage to make readers fill out the back-story.
It tells a story and lets the readers fill in the blanks. I’ll use an example of flash fiction to highlight this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” That story is commonly attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but the original source is unknown. The readers are left to infer what had happened and their ‘filling-in-the-blanks’ causes it to stick with them.
An example on what to avoid: “I heard noises outside; they stopped.” The audience can create their own story from that as well, but it is too vague. The noises could be attributed to anything and the story sets no tone for what direction it is going in. It could be a cat; it could be a stalker. There’s not enough to go on there and the plot suffers as a result.
- It has been proof-read and has no large story issues.
I’m not going to go too in-depth with this one as it’s fairly obvious. With longer stories, quality checkers are more likely to cut authors a break, as it’s possible that the issue just slipped by when they were re-reading it due to it being a couple of pages long. It’s harder to get behind that sentiment when the story is a page or less. For example, when a story is two sentences long and has five issues in it, it really comes off that the author put zero effort into the story and didn’t bother to check it.
Tips on writing a good micropasta
- Take it to the writer’s workshop. What you feel is a great micro-story might be viewed by others as clichéd or ineffective. Getting feedback will let you re-shape it before putting it on the main site and having it be deleted for story/grammatical issues.
- After writing it, wait a day or two and come back to it. Avoid posting it immediately after writing it. When I was working on my short story collection, I thought this one was a gem:
“I whimpered in the dark, “I am finally alone.” The voice responded from the darkness, “At last we’re finally alone.””
That story is pretty cliché and I’m fairly certain there is another story exactly like it out there, but when I wrote it, I thought it was amazing and ‘’original’’. I could attribute it to the rush of having written a story or me pretentiously patting myself on the back, but the fact still stays the same. After waiting a while and coming back to it, I saw the issues and thankfully pulled it before I submitted it.
- Format, format, format! If your story is going to be more than seven sentences, space those sentences out for effect. Put the twist/climax on its own line to give it more of a punch. If it is all condensed into one paragraph, not only will it be difficult to read, but it may be viewed as a wall-o-text.
- Read other micropastas to get examples on how to effectively create one. Here is a link to shorter stories on this site. While it may take some time to sift through the copyright redirection pages and the poems, you’ll find we have some great micropastas. Here are a few to get you started.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this long-winded guide, it’s that creating a good micropasta takes a lot more work than one would originally think. It isn’t something you should be able to type out in fifteen minutes and post. Like all stories, you should take time on it and put thought into it. If you don’t, it’ll show.