Bennett's Blog

The Micro-story

Bennett R. Coles | April 27, 2011

For years, fiction has been trending toward ever more efficient writing. It might be hard to notice a difference between this year's new releases and a book from, say, the 80's - but it's pretty easy to see if you wade into a 19th Century classic like Portrait of a Lady, or anything by Charles Dickens. And for any authors out there, you will no doubt groan at all the critiques you've received telling you to "tighten up" your prose or drop entire sections that don't actively move the story forward.

I can't say I'm opposed to this trend, and I certainly consider myself a better writer for all those exercises in efficiency I did over the years. But I wonder if perhaps the literary community isn't reaching toward an absurdity. Ten years ago I cut my teeth on 1000-word short stories. Two years ago I heard lots of buzz about the 100-word "short short" stories - apparently it was considered the height of talent to be able to fit a compelling tale into so fine a delivery.

Now, we have Twitter Stories. In other words, tell a complete story in 140 characters. Have we gone too far? Can anything that can truly be called a "story" be reduced to 140 characters? Oh sure, pithy statements and witty, even profound, remarks can fit. But a story? With a character, a plot and a meaning? I'm afraid I have to question whether a segment of the literary community isn't taking the idea of efficiency too far.

However, so as not to be cast out as a Philistine, I present to you a micro-story dictated by my two-year-old son just the other day while pouring water from a boat in his bath:

"Drop of rain. The end."

Brilliant, powerful and oozing with meaning, wouldn't you say? Oh, how high school students will one day pour over the meaning of that particular Coles the Younger classic.

Of course, there won't actually be any class discussion or essays written because those forms of communication will be considered far too inefficient. Probably just a "Like" of the Facebook page set up to gather feedback.

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