STAAR Writing: A short story in 26 lines or less with an interesting plot and engaging characters…. REALLY??
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
A very short, short story by Ernest Hemingway
I have a 9th grader (a boy no less)! While some boys may enjoy “the inner music that words make,” mine does not. So when I learned that he would have to write a short story, with an interesting plot and engaging characters in 26 LINES OR LESS I panicked! I began looking for mentor text that would support his STAAR endeavors! I didn’t find any short stories in textbooks; well, not short stories that were less than 26 lines. I found lots of excerpts, but no mentor texts. Then I turned to the ‘un-academic’ database…..GOOGLE. That’s where I found my answer: micro-fiction or flash-fiction. I wasn’t concerned about whether it is called micro or flash fiction; I was just thrilled that there was a genre out there that modeled for my son (and his other 9th grade counterparts) of what they were supposed to write!
Flash fiction is a genre of short story writing that presents “a singular moment, a slice of life, a sketch” in 55 to 1000 lines. In an information age of Twitter and hyperlinks, flash fiction is a way to engage our reluctant students in the elements of short story writing. Even if we take the Hemingway story as an example of flash-flash fiction, we can see that there are characters (some implied), there’s a plot, there’s conflict—in just 6 words! Imagine the fun kids could have with 50 to 900 more?!
At the latest TCTELA conference, Harvey Daniels used an example of flash fiction for literature circles. He examined a work titled “Waiting,” by Peggy McNally that came from Jerome Stern’s Micro Fiction. Let’s examine how many short story elements McNally used in just 255 mere words:
So, is writing a fully developed short story in 26 lines (or less) a bit daunting? YES!!! But it is comforting that this is neither a new task nor a new genre. It’s a genre that is published and, therefore, there are mentor texts for my son to digest. On June 22, ESC XIII will offer a workshop on the topic of short story writing with David Rice, a world-renowned author (workshop # SU1223130). He will share strategies that will prepare students for the STAAR literary composition. Until then, you may want to access some of these resources:
|Books||Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome SternFlash Fiction Forward, edited by James Thomas and Robert ShapardSudden Fiction: American Short Stories, edited by Robert Shapard and James ThomasField Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, edited by Tara L. Masih|
Masih, T.L. Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. Brookline: The Rose Metal Press, 2009.
Stern, Jerome, ed. Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Thomas, James, and Robert Shapard. Flash Fiction Forward. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.
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