It’s easier, I think, to write a novel than it is to write a short story. It’s easier to write a short than it is to write flash fiction. The hardest, possibly, is to write a fully-formed tale, evocative, in a mere fifty words.
Want to take us up on that challenge?
Kortnee Bryant, who writes as CV Walter (and possibly other names) came up with this particular challenge for her appearance at MARScon this weekend. If you’re at the con, find Jonna Hayden or Kortnee and they will give you a postcard to write your 50-words story on the back of the image prompt. If you aren’t there, ping me (at cedarlila at gmail dot com or any social media) and I’ll give you a unique image prompt. When you’ve managed – if you can! – to write a 50 word story, send the image and story to the email address above. Kortnee and Raconteur Press have a very special anthology planned for those who succeed admirably in this challenge.
So what is in a story, and why is it so hard to write short?
A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you ask me, something ought to happen in the story, otherwise it’s a slice of life, or a vignette.
Which isn’t to say that slice of life doesn’t have it’s place. It can be very soothing to step into a carefree world with no conflict for a time, and escape reality by way of fiction. Sometimes having much of a plot is stressful, so reading a book where you know there’s no Big Bad is pleasant. Other times, you want the characters to do things, go places, and grow.
Which is why it’s easier to write a novel. In a novel you have all the room you want to explore the world your character lives in. In a short story, that world is usually implied, and limned in for the reader using tropes and tricks. In a novel, your character(s) have the time to grow and learn, in a short that growth is really only shown as potential, without the time to really show what has changed. In a novel, the character has setbacks and challenges just like real life, and the reader has the time to submerge into a world they can feel they know. In a short story, you skim the surface like a bird snatching a fish from the waters below, to feast and turn back ready for another story.
Sometimes all you want is a snack. A bonbon, as it were, from an assorted chocolates and candy box. Like a tiny story that explodes with flavor in your brain, delivered in only fifty words.
The postcard stories can be any genre, inspired by the image you are assigned. Which will be something like these, but different, as everyone gets a unique image!
Do the typical unintentional MidJourney artefacts (like the 3rd leg on the man in the bottom pic) count? 🙂
Why not? That’s part of the fun of prompting with surreal images, after all. I’m not taking the time to edit images for this one, since the response to the initial social media announcement kept me busy last night!
Especially since the third leg appears to end in a three-toed foot like a chicken. Maybe.
Alien anatomy… LOL
The images will vary wildly. Some will be more surreal, but others are quite realistic (even for Midj).
Those pictures of SF “monsters” in the Bar reminded me of an alien species that I “created” in playing around with a SF Universe.
They looked very similar to the aliens Ripley had “fun” with but aren’t that nasty of a species. No other species wanted to watch them eat but didn’t have a problem with what they ate. 😉
Another species was similar in appearance with the Ewoks but had attempted to conquer their neighbors (Klingon mind-set) but got conquered by an Empire that really disliked species who attempted to conquer other species. Now, they are full members of the Empire and aren’t that bad unless you called them “cute”. They start plenty of bar fights when somebody calls them cute. 😀
Harder? Depends on the muse.
I’ve been trying to teach myself short stories in the past year, and I came to a realization: writing a novel is like taking a road trip: you can have a firm schedule that you will follow come hell or high water, you can have a plan from which you will deviate if you see some interesting scenic biways or a giant ball of twine that you just have to stop at, you can have a vague idea that you want to end up at a particular destination but no real plan on how to get there, or you can just drive and see where you end up. I might prefer some of those plans to others, but they’re all legitimate ways.
A short story, on the other hand, is like driving to work. You need to know not only exactly where you’re going but exactly how long it takes to get there. You don’t have time to explore or even get delayed too much in one part of the city.
Of course, that’s a normal short story, one in the 10K or less word category. For this, I don’t even know what metaphor to use. A drag race, maybe, where you have to be very good and very in control of your vehicle to have a chance at success.
It’s akin to poetry. So, like sumi-e in art, where every stroke of the brush is a major part of the image, in a story this short ever word counts.
That’s not reassuring. I’ve always sucked at poetry.
Still, you gave me a great prompt (thank you!), I came up with something to go with it, and I sent it to Kortnee. I don’t know if just writing something is half the battle, but it’s a half I managed to accomplish!
Huzzah! Something attempted, something done. Positive momentum!
Which does have the downside that there is absolute no room for mistakes.
“I’ll have what the big lizard’s having!”
The bartender looked down — his? its? — long blue proboscis, somehow silently conveying ‘Tourists!’ and a worlds-weary sigh. An expressionless voice issued from the translator. “I do not recommend it, sir. That drink is incompatible with Terran biochemistry. You would die most horribly.”
See? It’s a fun challenge!
Submitted, Let’s just say there are reasons why I am in the public health field and not a wildly successful, famous and wealthy author.
It all starts with small steps. You know that!
I decided that there is no way I am going to whittle my story down to 50 words, so I posted it on my blog instead of sending it in.
It is quite a challenge to make that short of a story!