12+ Loopholes by Thirroul based author, Susan McCreery, is a collection of microfiction, or very short stories. Wiktionary.org defines the genre as “Fiction that has a significantly shorter than average length.” Synonyms include drabble, flash fiction, flashfic, short-short story, sudden fiction and even twitterature.
When I was a career-driven twenty-something, I worked long hours and had little time or energy at night to read. But I grew up loving books, and short stories proved to be the perfect genre and length for keeping up my bedtime reading habit.
Brevity the key
The microfiction in McCreery’s Loopholes range in length from several paragraphs on one or two pages—it’s published in a handy 140 page, 165 mm by 165 mm, pocket or handbag-sized paperback—to only three short sentences.
By definition, brevity is the key to good microfiction. There is no time for plot and character development, so every word must count. And McCreery plunges the reader into her perfectly formed glimpses of everyday lives. She gives us no time to settle in and catch our breath before wrenching us back out to reflect upon what we’ve read, what may have led to the situation, and how it might end.
Microfiction relies on the skill of the writer and the imagination of the reader to tell a story. McCreery’s gift is in writing immediately recognisable vignettes. A perfect example is the shortest piece in the collection—the three-sentence long, Tough Love. A father brings home his daughter from a hospital. We don’t know the nature or extent of her injuries, but we are left believing in a father’s love and determination for his daughter’s recovery.
Microfiction will not be to every reader’s taste. Some may consider it a modern malaise, where our pace of life has become too fast to enjoy a leisurely read. Or Twitteresque, where US Presidential pronouncements are reduced to 280-character tweets. And yet, microfiction is not as recent a form as some might imagine. For example, Ernest Hemingway is said to have written the following in response to a challenge to write a six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
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Loopholes by Susan McCreery is an excellent example of microfiction. I wish I had found the genre back when I was a younger man and short on reading time. But I’m glad I’ve read it now as a middle-aged man—it has even inspired me to dabble in the form!
I recommend you buy a copy of Loopholes for your own pocket or handbag.
© 2017 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You might like to read my review of another slim volume of short stories: The Waterfowl Are Drunk by Kate Liston-Mills.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.