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Tim Sevenhuysen talks about the subversion of reader expectations...

READERSVOICE.COM: Some twists I’ve seen on 50-word stories involve giving a limited picture of what’s going on and then supplying the missing info that changes the reader’s perception of the whole scene, like in The Learner Voice. What are some other ways to create surprising twists?

TIM SEVENHUYSEN: Any kind of subversion of reader expectations is really enhanced in the limited space of a 50-word story. As readers, we fill in details about what we’re reading out of our own thoughts and experiences, and that’s especially necessary when the word count is so limited. If an author is able to intentionally lead a reader into thinking something is being implied, and then somehow reveals that something entirely different is happening, it can lead to some really funny results. It’s tough to pull off, though, especially for someone who has read a lot of microfiction, because it becomes easier and easier to sense when the author is trying to disguise something. The Learner Voice (http://fiftywordstories.com/2014/12/17/arthur-brown-the-learner-voice) is so effective with its twist because it has other important elements going on, in this case the drama of the confrontation between the teacher and the student, so it feels like the story could work effectively and be worth reading even without a twist.

RV: How many stories do you have in the books you have available and where else can people read the 50-word stories?

TS: The 50-word story books I’ve put out (fiftywordstories.bigcartel.com/category/50ws) each have between 100 and 120 stories in them. Some day I will find the time to put out a third collection with about the same number included. The books have a few unique stories in them, but most of the stories are still available to read on FiftyWordStories.com. I don’t delete the old stories, so there’s an archive of over 1,800 stories on the site dating back several years!

RV: The 50-word story is a good place for anecdotes, like Fishing. But there seem to be all kinds of styles, with both serious and humorous approaches. Do you have any particular favourite styles?

TS: When I write myself, I tend to trend towards humourous stories, with occasional serious/artistic ventures. As an editor, I would say that the absolute best 50-word stories tend to be more artistic, but I actual receive more artistic stories than humourous ones, so when I get a really good funny story, it really makes my day. Action and adventure stories are very difficult to pull off in the 50-word format, so I love seeing effective stories of that type. I’m also a sucker for strong 50-word poetry, which is pretty rare to come across.

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