The ultra short sweet spot

A short story is supposedly self contained and somewhere between five and ten thousand words. These can be very powerful and have on several occasions been perfectly translated to the big screen. There is a big attraction for self publishers to go for the short story; these represent a smaller challenge perhaps and diverse ideas can form multiple shorts rather than trying to accommodate all an author’s good ideas in one giant mishmash. What has been interesting to me is the niche of ultra short stories that are little more than a couple of pages, yet capture ones imagination. In “The Special Season” Joseph Edward Ryan tells a profound Nd haunting story about misadventure that is full of energy, mystery and fantasy. I was left considering and pondering the universe he created outside of this pastiche. It was a complete story but at the same time it was just a teaser, an appetiser or an awakening. A A Gallagher does something similar in “It’s Ancient History Now” which is a wham-bam, blink and you have missed it, ultra short story. Even given that, it captures emotion and transported me back to more carefree times. It also speaks to coincidence and the amazing characteristic of random events to throw up the unexpected.
It is not only fiction or fantasy that benefits from this format. Self help books often have only one or two messages that get padded out to be full length books via endless repetition. The ultra short is a powerful format for this type of useful information and that is exactly what Jonathan Kamp did in “Tough Guys Don’t Take Notes“. Kamp’s history in the forces combined with years in the work place is condensed into around 6000 words of usefulness. The basic point being that deconstruction of any process to its fundamental points is useful for memory and understanding and therefore efficient execution.
Together these works show that ultra short works have power and potential for impact when they are the natural length for the subject matter.


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