Celebrate Short Fiction – December 21st

(PCM) Does life imitate art? If the sales of fiction for our e-readers, smart phones and – oh yeah, books – tell us anything, it’s that it might be the other way around: life in the information age moves fast, and art (including literature) needs to keep up.

In recent years, short fiction has become so popular that national holidays have been set for it. In the UK, National Flash Fiction Day is June 27th. In New Zealand it’s June 21st, which is also the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere – the shortest forms of fiction honored on the shortest day of the year.

In that spirit, some Americans have suggested December 21st (the Winter Solstice here in the north) as the perfect day to celebrate short fiction – and short fiction writers – in the United States.

So what is” short fiction”?

A short story is any piece of prose fiction under (roughly) 7500 words – about what you can read in one sitting. Short stories are a great fit for the modern stop-and-go lifestyle; perfect for reading over meal breaks, in-between appointments, or winding down from a busy day. Thanks to internet podcasts and audio books you can even “read” short fiction while you’re on-the-move.

Where can you find short stories? There are literally thousands of fiction magazines and journals, in print and online, in every genre and style imaginable. Check your local library, newsstand, or bookstore – or, you can open a new browser and with a quick search find a source for your (free) fiction fix right now.

You might also consider a short story collection. A book of stories by a single author can be as satisfying as a novel, without the deep commitment – like getting to know someone one conversation at a time. An anthology of multiple authors, meanwhile, is like literary speed-dating: each story has something different to offer; a new chance to fall in love.

If you don’t have time for a one-sitting story, how about a bite? Short short stories are known as flash fiction—generally 1000 words or less. There’s also micro fiction (about 300 words), drabbles (100 words exactly) or even one-sentence fiction, as in the classic:

“Baby shoes, never worn.”

Many of the magazines that publish short stories also publish (or are dedicated exclusively to) flash and micro-fiction varieties; a one-stop shop for your short fiction needs. Some venues will even deliver daily doses of quick fiction right to your inbox.

Reading short fiction isn’t just a great way to support the art form – it also supports short fiction authors. Don’t let word counts fool you – writing less isn’t necessarily easier than writing more. Short fiction still incorporates all the hallmarks of good story: character, detail, tension, resolution, craft. They just do it faster. In short fiction, every word has to count.

If you enjoy reading short fiction, why not show some love for the wordsmiths who created it – today, and every day?