Flash fiction is a term for an extremely short story. The length can vary between one sentence and a couple of pages. Depending on whom you ask, the maximum length can be anywhere from 300 to 1000 words.
There are several competitions for flash fiction. Often the rules for these contests give specific word counts, like 42 or 69; entrants who miss the mark are disqualified. Other contests give a list of what must be contained in the story, the winner being the one who fits all of those criteria while producing the shortest story. These stories are often only one or two sentences long.
- Aesop's Fables are probably the earliest example of flash fiction.
- Isaac Asimov was a master at extremely short fiction:
- "Hell-Fire": The whole story is about 400 words, and only occupies a two-page spread in Fantastic Universe or Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories.
- "Insert Knob A in Hole B": Dr. Asimov was challenged to write a complete story that shared a Central Theme with the discussion panel from scratch before the end of the discussion panel. This 350 word story is the result.
- "The Message": When it was published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, the editor called it an "ultra-short short-short", in contrast to the Foundation Series that Dr Asimov had been publishing. This story barely took up both sides of one page.
- "Truth to Tell": When this story was published in Tales of the Black Widowers, Dr Asimov mentions that it was written in the hospital just before his first surgery.
- Flash is a flash fiction magazine published the University of Chester Press in Chester. It was established in 2008. It accepts submissions for publication by any author on any topic. The editors are Professor Ashley Chantler and Professor Peter Campbell.
- There Are No Windows In A Cocoon is a collection of very short flash fiction.
- Greg van Eekhout has written several Story Grenades
- A (probably fictitious) anecdote claims that Ernest Hemingway once won a bet to write a short story that was only six words long with the following:
- István Örkény has an entire collection of them, called One Minute Stories. The shortest one is called Blank Page - although it does come with a disclaimer stating that he didn't really have anything to say in it, so he leaves it open for interpretation. Another is merely two words, and a Long Title.
- Yet another called "Stamp" consists of a single stamp with the sentence written along the edge: "To hell with everything".
- Franz Kafka wrote several very short stories; one called Give it up! could be used to represent his entire work.
- El Dinosaurio (The Dinosaur) by Augusto Monterroso is said to be the shortest story ever: "Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí." A close translation is: "When he/she/it (Spanish doesn't require specification) woke up, the dinosaur was still there."
- Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction is a collection of 87 stories under 1000 words long. Given where the stories are supposed to be read, that's probably the perfect length.
- El emigrante by Luis Felipe Lomelí is only four words long: "¿Olvida usted algo?" "¡Ojalá!" ("Did you forget anything?" "I wish!")
- Kevin G. Bufton penned the world's shortest horror story in a mere six words.
Coffin for sale. One previous owner.
- Though not itself an example, Fredric Brown's Knock mentions one:
There is a sweet little horror story that is only two sentences long:"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door."
"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a lock on the door."
- Brown later realised he could make it even shorter but just as scary:
- Inspired by the story apocryphally attributed to Hemingway, here's a collection of six-word stories by several famous writers, including Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Joss Whedon, and Alan Moore.
- An old joke has it that a writing teacher once assigned a story combining themes of religion, royalty, mystery, and sex. A student managed to accomplish all this in just one sentence:
"My God," said the Queen, "who's that touching my leg?"
- Most of Hans Von Hozel's works, they are quite short.
- Love at First Sight is...brief.
They banged. The End.
- Grandpa Gray by Cass Hollander is only 68 words long.
- Flying With Santa
- Bruce Coville's Book of...: Book of Nightmares contains the short story Toll Call, which is exactly fifty words long (excluding the title, author's name and Coville's blurb at the top).
- The Shortest Story puts out flash fiction weekly.
- There are several Twitter accounts dedicated to telling a story in a single tweet, such as Micro Flash Fiction, Micro SF/F Stories, A Small Fiction, and Philosophalopod.
- r/TwoSentenceHorror is a subreddit dedicated to horror stories that are only two sentences long.
- 365 Tomorrows is dedicated to speculative fiction flash fiction and, as the name suggests, publishes daily.
- Forrest J. Ackerman paid respects to this trope with a single letter story titled "Cosmic Report Card: Earth":