Short, short stories
It's amazing how everything seems to align at times. I'm currently doing my second unit for my Masters of Creative Writing and we are learning to Tweet. It sounds silly but let me explain.
A well rounded Twitter Fiction, micro-fiction or super-short short-story has elements that make it succinct while still being complete. At uni we are discussing the 6 key narrative elements based on William Nelles' article 'Microfiction: What makes a Very Short Story Very Short'. My first reaction is that length is clearly the only difference between short stories and long stories. Boy, was I wrong. His 6 key narrative elements are: action, character, setting, temporality, intertextuality and closure. This being said, his article goes on to say that 'character flattens out and recedes as circumstance becomes dominant' (p92, Nelles). Basically, action is more powerful than character or setting when telling an effective micro-fiction. Adjectives and adverbs are anthrax; avoid pointless detail; reference pop-culture/history/parables; and so much more.
Our first writing assignment was to create a Twitter fiction. Here it is if you're interested (trigger warning - illness and mental health):
The Same Message
Sunday afternoon: the same message goes to everyone in my phone.
“Shaving my head on Tuesday.” I hit send.
My husband looks at me from the end of the couch, “I love you. No matter what.”
My twin replies within half an hour. “You will rock it!” She tells me, “I’ll make you a headband all the colours of the universe. Love you to infinity.”
I answer, “and beyond.” She knows my motivation.
Workmate 1 asks if I’m drunk.
“No,” I reply. “Alcohol would definitely not help in this situation.”
It used to help numb the pain. Now it makes me sick. Pills and alcohol don’t mix.
Mum calls that night, “Your braids? Aren’t you worried what people will think?” TBH, other people’s opinions are the least of my concerns.
This is one of the reasons I didn’t tell you in the first place. Blood doesn’t mean that you care.
Mrs Busybody from church questions if my actions are a cry for help. She says she’s there if I need to talk. Really she just wants to stick her nose in my business to share with the other old crones.
Sally is my work supervisor. Sally replies via email. “I’m not sure a shaved head is allowed. As per the dress code in the handbook, women are expected to have a respectable appearance. Will look it up for you :)” Sally is an idiot.
Work-wife replies on Wednesday. She asks when I’ll be back. “Feel better soon.” She says. “Not sure if I’ll ever feel better,” I reply. Hands shake. Pills designed to fix me should not make me feel so bad.
Thursday feels better. I call Mum and tell her why I shaved my head. We talk about the pills. She gets angry. Typical. But then again, maybe this is a conversation better left for my therapist.
After breakfast on Friday, a kaleidoscope greets the toilet bowl. I feel like shit.
I shake like a leaf as my husband’s shoulder soaks up my tears. “It’ll get better,” he promises. I know it won’t.
Exactly one week later, the same message goes out to everyone in my phone.
“Jesse passed away at 5:13 this morning after a recent diagnosis. Those who knew her are welcome to attend her funeral on Tuesday.” My husband hits send. #fuckcancer
It's 386 progressively more depressing words punctuated with the final hashtag. A full story in less than 400 words is pretty impressive to me, especially when aimed at adults.
So here is where the universe is aligning at the moment. From March 2nd to March 7th there is a competition called #50preciouswords run by Vivian Kirkfield (https://viviankirkfield.com/2021/03/02/50preciouswords-2021-is-officially-open)
50 words to tell a story. Could you do it? Could you write 50 words that encapsulate an entire story? Could I?
Short answer: Yes
Long answer: Also yes but with more words :P. Here is my 50 word micro-fiction that included adverbs (because I think they are not anthrax and that they are essential in some stories).
What's For Dinner?
Dad blinked quizzically at Mum.
She questioned, “Fish?”
Looking at his full hands, Max asked, “Chicken for dinner?”
Ethan questioned his parents. “Why is our pet hamster running slower?”
Mum sighed, “He’s lazy.”
Dad noticed Ethan and asked, “Chicken? Fish?”
Ethan enunciated, “Slow... Ham-ster.”
Consequently, they ate hamster for dinner.