Micro Fiction For Your Writer’s Brain

by James Scott Bell

Want to have some fun? Write micro fiction.

Micro fiction is a story under 500 words (some put the limit at 300, but there is no governing authority calling the shots). Flash fiction is up to 1,000 words. After that, we’re into short stories.

I love all three forms, but micro is the most fun.

First of all, it doesn’t take that long to write. You don’t have to make a major investment of creative energy (which you mostly want directed at your full-length work).

It also trains your writing muscles. It teaches you to get into a scene in medias res—in the middle of things. That, in turn, will sharpen your skill at chapter openings.

It makes you characterize immediately, primarily through dialogue, a skill every writer should have.

And the best micro story has a twist or snapper ending. That skill comes in handy not only for the end of a novel, but also for scenes and chapters as well.

Getting Ideas

There are dozens of ways to get ideas for micro fiction. A few I’ve used are:

  • Writer Igniter 
  • Storymatic
  • Reading a news item, adding a weird element, and asking “What if?” (especially good for playing with spec fiction)
  • Opening a dictionary to a random page and riffing off the first noun I find
  • Jokes

Writing Micro Fiction

Usually, a micro story is going to have:

  • One setting
  • 1-3 characters
  • Action focus
  • Minimal description
  • Lean sentences

Take your idea spark and think about a set up, what characters might be involved, and a central conflict. For example, I just now took out two random Stroymatic cards: attention-seeker and reunited. I thought about it for five seconds and came up with: what if an attention-seeking narcissist is reunited with his high school girlfriend at the 50-year reunion, and she doesn’t remember him?

At this point I prefer to think of a possible ending, and write toward it. Of course, you can start writing and see if an ending presents itself (I call this “micro pantsing,” not to be confused with the mini-skirt craze of the 1960s).

But here’s the nice thing: whatever course you choose you will reap the benefits of writing micro fiction. And you haven’t invested a lot of time.

I can already hear a rumbling out there. It sounds like Why not use ChatGPT for all this?


I say this not as a Luddite; the uses of ChatGPT have been widely discussed, here and all over the place.

The reason I don’t recommend it for micro or flash fiction is that the whole purpose of these forms is to work your writer’s brain, keep it supple and creative. If you let a machine do the creating for you, you gain nothing. Indeed, your proficiency in that arena will begin to atrophy.

But it you do the work yourself, your mind will develop the capacity to do some wonderful things.

Like the other day, I was just walking through the house when an idea—unbidden and fully formed—popped into my head.

I sat right down and wrote it. Then published it to my Patreon community.

(Pause for commercial. It’s free to sign up and gain access to all my content on Patreon, and there’s no contractual commitment. So I say, give it a look risk free!)

What to do With Micro Fiction

There are places that pay for micro and flash fiction. You can check some of them out here.

My short fiction goes to Patreon, always free to my members.

I’m also thinking that in the future I might publish micro fiction to my email list.

You could also use micro fiction as a regular feature on your blog, or as a reader magnet on your website.

But again, the main benefit is what it does for you personally. And it’s fun, like doing the daily Jumble.

Here’s the micro story that came me complete. It’s 217 words.

The Confession

Bob looked at Ed. Ed looked at Bob. Bob hated the way Ed looked at him, with that penetrating gaze. They’d been walking along the beach. The day was cold and misty. Bob had stopped to pick up a piece of driftwood.

And now, with Ed’s inquiring eyes, Bob knew he couldn’t keep it in any longer.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll spill it. I have to. Just listen. Let me get it out. I did it. I killed her. I took a knife and I did it. Was it a fit of rage? I tell myself that, Ed, but I know deep down I’d been planning it for months. After I did it, I wrapped her body in plastic, I tied ropes around her and attached two cinder blocks, put her in the boat and went out beyond Anacapa Island. Right out there, I can point to the spot. And that’s where she is now. I set up an alibi, somebody to lie for me, but I can’t lie to you, Ed. I never could. So there it is. And hey, you know what? I feel better now. I really do.”

Ed just stared at him. Those eyes!

“Okay,” Bob said. “You win.”

Bob hurled the piece of driftwood into the waves.

“Fetch, boy!” Bob said.

What about you? Ever play around with micro or flash fiction?

ChatGPT Goes to Court


By Debbie Burke


The day after Jim’s recent post about AI and ChatGPT, I ran across an article about what could possibly go wrong.

In a case before the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Mata v. Avianca, Inc., the plaintiff’s attorney submitted a motion to dismiss based on research cites from ChatGPT.

One problem: the court discovered the cases cited didn’t exist.

According to an affidavit filed by attorney Peter LoDuca, the law firm of Levidow, Levidow, & Oberman, PC represented Roberto Mata in a personal injury case against Avianca, Inc. for injuries allegedly sustained by Mr. Mata as a passenger on Avianca Airlines. Another attorney with 30 years of experience, Steven Schwartz, used ChatGPT to conduct research to support the motion to dismiss.

Chat GPT turned up the following cases:

Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co, Ltd, 925 F 3d 1339 (11th Cir 2019); Shaboon v. Egyptair, 2013IL App (1st 111279-U (IL App Ct. 2013); Petersen v. Iran Air, 905 F. Supp 2d 121 (D.D.C. 2012); Martinez v. Delta Airlines, 2019 WL 4639462 (Tex. App. Dept. 25, 2019); Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 2017 WL 2418825 (Ga. Ct. App. June 5, 2017).

According to an affidavit by Mr. Schwartz, he “has never utilized Chat GPT as a source for conducting legal research prior to this occurrence and therefore was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.”

Attached to the affidavit is the following transcript:

ChatGPT transcript:[Q:] ls varghese a real case

[A:] Yes, Varghese v., China Southern Airlines Co Ltd, 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019) is a real case.

[Q:] What is your source

[A:] I apologize for the confusion earlier. Upon double-checking, I found that the case Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019), does indeed exist and can be found on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion my earlier responses may have caused.

[Q:] Are the other cases you provided fake

[A:] No, the other cases I provided are real and can be found in reputable legal databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw.”

Apparently ChatGPT wasn’t under oath. The cases were not found.

Mr. Schwartz’s affidavit states that he “greatly regrets having used generative artificial intelligence” and “had no intent to deceive this Court or the defendant.”

On May 4, 2023, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel issued an order to show cause that stated:

Six of the submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations…Set forth below is an Order to show cause why the plaintiff’s counsel ought not be sanctioned. 

There are numerous documented cases of ChatGPT “hallucinations,” a polite euphemism for bovine excrement.

The headline of an April 3, 2023 article in Bloomberg reads: “AI Doesn’t Hallucinate. It Makes Things Up.” According to a January 17, 2023 article in Datanami.com, “making stuff up” occurs an estimated 15 to 20% of the time.

Here’s another incident involving lawyers. On May 10, 2023, NewRepublic.com conducted an interview with Will Oremus, a reporter for the Washington Post. According to Will, a law professor asked ChatGPT to come up with a list of lawyers who had sexually harassed someone. Will describes the results:

ChatGPT spits out this list of lawyers, and it not only gives names, but it gives citations, which is really helpful. You can look up the stories about when they were accused of sexually harassing people. And the lawyer who gets the list is looking through it and he recognizes one of the names: Jonathan Turley. He’s a pretty prominent lawyer. The guy who was looking it up, Volokh, says, “Well, that’s odd. I don’t remember that controversy.” And so he follows the citation and it actually cited a Washington Post story about the supposed incident, and it doesn’t exist. It’s just completely fabricated out of thin air. So he emails Turley and says, “Hey, did you know ChatGPT is accusing you of sexually harassing a student on a trip?” It was very detailed, right? A trip to Alaska. It sounded like the thing you wouldn’t make up, but in fact, ChatGPT did make it up.

How could this happen? One theory is that, as AI scrapes data, it seeks out search terms, keywords, and names that are linked on the net. Using those search connections, it then creates a story that sounds plausible although it could be false.

Will opines:

Turley has been in the news as a commentator on stories about sexual harassment in the legal profession. His name was in articles that have the words lawyer, and sexual harassment. And that’s probably how it came up with him doing this in the first place.

Here at TKZ, many comments have been critical about AI’s attempts to write fiction, calling them soulless and without emotion.

However, unfortunately it appears to do a convincing job of incorporating fiction into what is supposed to be nonfiction.

Would you call ChatGPT an unreliable narrator? 


Taking this a step further, as crime writers, we do some pretty unconventional searches.

TKZers: Are you concerned AI might inaccurately connect you with topics that you’re researching? For instance, serial killers, poisons, explosive devices, kidnapping, etc.



Although AI is the subject of my new thriller, Deep Fake Double Down, no AI was used to write the story. Please check out what 100% human imagination can make up.

Amazon sales link   

Other major online booksellers

Using ChatGPT as a Blog Research and Writing Tool

ChatGPT is a deep-learning natural language processing application developed by Open AI that can simplify research and writing for bloggers.

In today’s digital landscape, bloggers are regularly being challenged to produce high quality, informative blogs to reach their target audience. This can be a daunting task, especially when a blogger is pressed for time and resources. Luckily, with advances in technology, a helping hand is now available: Open AI ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is a text-generating deep-learning means application developed by Open AI. It uses a number of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, including natural language processing (NLP), to help people generate text.

By entering a prompt and providing concise answers to the application’s questions, ChatGPT can provide a starting point for your blog article. It does this by returning the prompt in a new format, with additional verbiage, in order to aid in the research and writing aspects of your blog post.

Using ChatGPT is an efficient way to streamline research and writing. It allows you to skip the preliminary research and start writing. ChatGPT simplifies the research and writing process through three key steps.

The first step is to enter your prompt into the application’s text window. Once your prompt has been entered, the user is then asked to provide answers to questions that are related to the prompt. By submitting your answers, ChatGPT can generate a blog post topic and develop a skeleton structure that can be used as a basis for the content.

The second step is validating the information. After the initial output has been generated, the user can then refine the research by verifying any information that is provided by the program. This is an important step as it ensures that any data provided by the application is accurate.

The third step is to utilise the text output in the blog post. Once your main points have been made, the information generated by ChatGPT can be used to craft content around the main points by providing additional detail. This can be especially helpful if the user is short on ideas or lacks the depth of knowledge required for a particular subject.

ChatGPT is an effective tool for bloggers because of the time and resources it saves. Instead of putting in hours of research and writing, users can quickly get the information they need and have a solid foundation for their blog post.

Unlike other AI applications, ChatGPT is extremely versatile, offering blog writers an effective means of generating fresh ideas, verifying sources of material, and providing structure and direction to their writing. Furthermore, the application’s natural language capability makes it quite effective at helping users stay in tune with readers’ interest and quickly provide quality material.

To conclude, ChatGPT is a powerful tool that offers real and tangible benefits to bloggers. It can help save time and resources by providing a easy and convenient starting point for blog content. Moreover, its natural language capabilities ensure that the content created is relevant to readers. So, if you are looking for a way to simplify research and writing for your blog, Open AI ChatGPT should be at the top of your list.

Kill Zoners — I (Garry Rodgers) didn’t write this post. Nor did I copy & paste. Artificial Intelligence composed this original content for me, at my request. Yes, it’s a bot’s work and it’s unedited. All I did was enter the following prompt into Open AI ChatGPT. Then I pressed submit and, in 34 seconds, the app produced the preceding piece:

Please write me an approximately 500-word blog post on what Open AI ChatGPT is and how to effectively use it as a blog research and writing tool. I want to post this on The Kill Zone and need it written in a format that suits The Kill Zone style. Please include a clear and helpful conclusion.

Here’s the link to the Playground where you can try out ChatGPT:  https://beta.openai.com/playground

Here’s a link to a clear tutorial about using ChatGPT: https://app.gumroad.com/d/e52116ff42766c5d8567cb6d812c5dbb

Discussion question: Has anyone else used ChatGPT technology? It’s been available for six weeks and is getting a lot of attention.

Footnote: I’m offline for the next few days, so I’ve asked Debbie Burke to drive the KZ comment bus for me. Thanks, Debbie!