Some years ago I bought a book, sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, entitled Mini Sagas (Sutton Publishing, 1997). I forget why I bought it: was I enticed by an article in the newspaper (a publication I don’t usually read), or did I find the book by chance in a shop? It doesn’t matter. Herein lines the first thing to know about writing the brief story, or the short short, or the micro: cut out the extraneous detail. I’ll start again.
Some years ago I bought a book called Mini Sagas. The book promotes the fifty word story: the whole deal in just fifty words (beginning, middle, end; setting, characters, crisis, climax, resolution). Everything.
Not all micro fiction requires a fifty word limit but, in the preface to the book in question, Victoria Glendinning writes: ‘the good [stories] transcend their brevity and linger in the reader’s mind in a quite eerie manner.’
Now, how on Earth do you do that? How do you imbue a story with that eerie lingering quality? Perhaps, like the poetry writer might advocate, if you reconcile yourself to the idea that you will write mounds and mounds of average pieces, somewhere in amongst it all will emerge a gem.
Gems happen. I’ve often thought that there are, roughly speaking, two sorts of stories: the one where you think it all through and know the way the setting, crisis, climax and resolution will unfold; then there’s the gem that just happens.
Creating gems (by the planned route or by providence) is what writing micro encapsulates. I’ve been searching all my life for those writerly gems, even before I first heard of the various terms for micro writing. The search is a continuous one.
There is a peculiar deftness to writing succinctly. We look for it by chipping away. We strip away the mounds of the unnecessary, the frivolous, and the superficial. We are left with the beautiful details.
As Edwin Arlington Robinson had it: ‘There are too many words in prose, and they take up altogether too much room.’
Note: this article was first published at www.writersdock.com under a pen name.