University of Iowa

Freeze Frame: Writing the Very Short Story

Weekend July 13 to July 14 2019

What is the difference between miniatures, drabbles, micro-fiction, palm stories, twitterature, and short shorts? In turn, how are these forms different from flash fiction, sudden fiction, and very short fiction? Is the answer more quantitative than qualitative, or does the selection of a frame—and form—change more than the number of words within a story? Increasingly, literary magazines promote contests in shorter and shorter narrative forms to feature on smart phones, tablets, and social media sites. Writing to scale, to fit into form, may offer writers a swifter path to publication, yet each scale-down also requires a quick evolution in strategy and technique.


This course will investigate the array of frames and forms in the ever-expanding house of fiction. Just as there is no true “free verse” in poetry, there is no free form in fiction. However, there is a freeze frame. For certain contests and publications, a writer cannot exceed an allotted length, whether 150, 1000, or 2500 words. The first choice for the writer then is to select the frame. The second choice is to submit to it. The third? The class will make that discovery together, with two chief experiments in constraint: writing a 150-word story forward into a 1000-word frame then writing a 1000-word story backward into a 150-word frame.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our weekend.  

Short Story