Since I decided to publish submitted flash fiction on this website, I have had to explore its various subtypes, of which there seem to be an increasing number with definitions that often vary from editor to editor. Here is what I have discovered so far:
Flash fiction: generally accepted to be any prose work of 1,000 words or less. Some alternate terms include micro fiction, micro narrative, micro-story, postcard fiction, short short, short short story, and sudden fiction, although some editors define specific limits for these as well. In China, the genre is sometimes called a “smoke long”, because it should be finished before the reader can finish smoking a cigarette. The Wikipedia article on flash fiction notes that:
“Unlike a vignette, flash fiction often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten – that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline. Different readers thus may have different interpretations.”
Micro fiction: Can refer to works of 1,000 words or less or even of works 300 words or less or somewhere in between.
Nano fiction: 300 words or less. See http://www.nanofiction.org (which takes submissions of 300 words or less) for excellent examples and discussions of the genre. Some put it at 55 words or less.
Drabbles: 100 words or less. See The Drabble on WordPress for a discussion and examples.
Twitterature: Sized to fit in a Twitter “tweet” of 140 characters or less. Some equate this to about 23 words.
Now here is an interesting bit of trivia from the Wikipedia article on flash fiction that seems written for horror aficionados:
“Also notable are the 62 “short-shorts” which comprise Severance, the thematic collection by Robert Olen Butler in which each story describes the remaining 90 seconds of conscious awareness within human heads which have been decapitated.“
I will probably add these and any others I find to my lexicon of horror.
I would be interested in knowing if you encounter other subcategories not listed here.