Three minute fiction refers to a complete story that can be read out loud in three minutes. Each year, the U.S. public radio station NPR hosts a three minute fiction contest, in which listeners are encouraged to send in their short stories to be read in three minutes. The winners will then be read on the air. This encourages people to hone their writing skills; developing a complete, engaging story that can fit into a short period of time is a difficult task for many people. This is what really helps to make the contest interesting.
The ability to write a good piece of three minute fiction hinges on a few different things. The first is a cohesive idea; the theme or message of the story should be clear from the start. There is no space for extraneous explanation, so it is important for anyone writing this type of story to be able to be concise and say a great deal with few details. The ability to edit one's own work, and keep editing until it is exactly right, is quite important as well. Asking another person to read the piece and point out any areas where improvements could be made might be helpful as well.
Anyone hosting a three minute fiction contest will generally provide some sort of parameters for the stories. These can include the desired themes of the story, required characters, or even a particular setting or time of day. Though these selections may seem arbitrary, if often allows easier comparison of the stories, to allow judges to see how the authors are able to get creative and maximize the opportunities they have to share their ideas. Some contests will not make any of these requirements of the writers, however, and will give them complete freedom to develop their stories.
Of course, it is not necessary to enter a contest in order to write three minute fiction. Some people will write pieces like this, that must stay within a certain number of words, or a certain time limit for reading, simply to practice their skills. Any restrictions that are placed on word count, genre, plot, or any other aspect of the story, forces people to concentrate and focus their work more effectively. For this reason, writing three minute fiction as an exercise can be very beneficial for anyone who wants to become a more concise writer or to improve his or her editing skills.