Short, precise, to the point.
Long, dependent clauses, wordy allusions.

Hemingway vs. Faulkner. The literary match up of style.

Hemingway is credit with writing*:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

A Six word word story that he considered to be his best work.

Faulkner, by contrast, is known for occasionally writing page-long sentences that take a practiced reader to task. But Faulkner is also famous for stating that a novelist is a failed short story writer, and a short story writer is a failed poet. So perhaps these two literary greats were, at heart, closer than their stylistic choices would indicate.

If you’d asked me earlier this year which stylistic camp I belonged to: Hemingway or Faulkner? I would have said Faulkner. I tend to run on a bit, like to play with my words, and use more commas than I probably should.

But my recent experience with flash fiction has made me appreciate the power of brevity. In April, my twitter story Gift Horse went out on YouTube and today my new flash fiction piece was posted on I’ve gone from 140 characters in my last project to 101 words, and I am really enjoying the challenge of trying to communicate a textured story with a scant number of words. But I am also beginning to wonder if thriving with scarcity isn’t a larger theme in my life.

My husband often comments that I can cook a meal with a carrot, two raisins, left over oatmeal and an onion. Whereas, he laments, he needs to find a recipe and then go and buy all the ingredients. He tends toward hyperbole, but there is truth in his observation. I am a person who says/thinks “what can I do with what I have.” And, in fact, going to a large grocery store, like Whole Foods, overwhelms me. There are simply too many options for me to take in–too many variables.

Likewise, when I am writing a longer piece, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I often find myself struggling with choice, getting bogged down or obsessed with finding the right word or description among all the possible ones available to me.

While I love a mind that can ruminate on a grand scale, I am definitely a writer who needs constraints. At least initially. Be they word limits, topics, or deadlines, all serve to make me work–work with what I’ve got. From there I can expand and expound. And then edit. And edit again. And again. And again. Always hoping to come to the sweet spot of satisfaction, both for myself and a reader.


For those interested in finding out more about Flash Fiction, check out:
(@sixwordstories on Twitter)

If you have your own Flash Fiction recommendations or pieces let me know in the comments.

*OpenCulture has a good article on the origin of the six-word story attributed to Hemingway