I adore shorts. It’s where I honed my skills as a storywriter, and where I continue to hone them. I’m time poor when it comes to writing, with my days filled with client editing—which I love, don’t get me wrong; but to feed that part of my creative soul, I tend to concentrate on shorts (yes, the stories, not the pants).
There’s a real challenge in creating a complete tale within a limited word count, and not just a complete tale, but an engaging one. A tale that drags the reader in and leaves an indelible mark. To have a story we’ve penned, linger, is something for which every writer strives.
That doesn’t mean writing shorts is easy. It ain’t. Especially with tales that have to fit within the teeny-tiny side of word counts. Micro-fiction is its own beast, and she’s a harsh mistress. Every word needs to fight for its place, and it was quite the brouhaha with my latest tale, Of Hawks and Sparrows, published by Nightmare Fuel Magazine where the limit was 666 words. You read that right, just 666 words. I was up for the challenge. And hoo-boy, was it a challenge.
The theme for this sub-call was: ‘Love Has Teeth’. Quite broad ranging but that just opens a multitude of pathways begging for exploration, especially as love comes in all forms, from romantic to familial to platonic and everything outside and in-between. For me, it was more about the ‘bite’. What are we prepared to do for those we love? How far will we go? How dark will we descend for those who hold a place in our heart?
Of Hawks and Sparrows had been niggling at me for a month or so. I had a basic premise and about eleventy-million different ways it could play out. But my mind is sometimes like a browser with all the tabs open, and I was flitting from path to path until I saw the open call. Then, like a forced reboot, it all fell into place. Kinda. See, no matter how solitary the writing process is, we don’t do this alone.
So, a vomit draft later, and well over 666 words, I gnawed this baby down to its bare bones to see if the story made any kind of sense. And with the persnickety eye of my best friend and writerly cohort, Devin Madson (check out her storytelling, it’s amazing), I hit 666 words on a tale that not only made sense, but which hit all the marks I wanted. Dark, gritty, bloody. Much bite.
Eleven stories were selected for this online showcase of Australian writers, and you can go HERE to read all the shorts (yup, stories not pants!). With each read topping-out at around a minute each, if you’re as time-poor as I am, click that link for a free dose of horror. You can stuff your face with tales or take bite-sized morsels. Each story has its own take on the theme, its own flavour, if you will. Bon appétit!
Nightmare Fuel has also opened their next sub-window with the theme: ‘Don’t Let Them In’.
And yes, that’s a 666-word limit for stories and, as I mentioned above, the magazine is wanting to showcase Aussie authors, so this call is open for Australian citizens and residents only.
As I’m wont to say: read the guidelines, BE the guidelines.
Right, that’s one story acceptance for 2023, here’s hoping for more.
Note: No shorts of the pants kind were hurt in the making of this post.