Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Short, Short Story: 100 Word Story Magazine

This review should only be 100 words long. Most things should only be 100 words long. After all, we live in an age where even the approximation of totality can seem exhausting. We inhabit glimpses. We remember shadows. We listen to a snippet of a song, then watch a flash of a movie.

Now there’s a literary journal, started right here in the Bay Area, that aims to capture such a fragmentary nature of life: 100 Word Story (full disclosure: I’m one of the founding editors).

If you’re still reading (after 80 or so words), consider this journal within an ever-evolving American obsession with the art of brevity, in both a literary and a cultural sense.

Hemingway started the trend with his famous six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” You could say that the sensibility behind those six words led to our Twittering culture itself.

Such a short, short story isn’t about the word count, though—it’s about what’s left out. Remember that Hemingway’s famous dictum of writing was that a story should be an iceberg: only ten percent of it should be visible.

The 100-word format whittles that figure down to one percent. Traditional “flash fiction” is generally defined as being between 300 and 1,000 words, so a 100-word story becomes more akin to a narrative haiku.

It’s “a limit that inspires compositional creativity,” says Paul Strohm, who sparked the whole idea with his stories in Eleven Eleven. After I read Strohm’s stories, I started writing and swapping stories with a friend and was quite taken by the genre. So I decided that the last gaping hole among lit journals was a mag dedicated to 100-word stories.

The genre is a narrative snapshot, which is why we offer a photo prompt every month and a theme to write to.

In practical matters, if you have writer’s block or are the type of writer who procrastinates before diving into a longer work, the 100-word format is a perfect warm-up, a way to capture a single intense moment within a longer piece, or condense that essay or story you might never quite have the time for.

Other than that, we have great t-shirts and mugs and trucker hats for sale. And more.

Read. Write. Submit. Buy. Repeat.

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