Shortness

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Hemingway has often been extolled as the master of brevity, either through his style or his lexicon. Above is his shortest story, one that he believed to be his best work.

I’m not sure I agree, but I love the concision.*

So it seems does (did) Wired who commissioned this raft of genre versions of the six word story. I’m not sure what my favourite is, but I somehow feel that time machines are cheating a little, and lose effect on rereading.**

I’d like to liken the form to flash fiction, which my friend Ardie Collins*** talks about here, but for me the forms are quite different. To my mind, flash fiction is all about the splurge – getting a story out literally <em>in a flash</em>, with minimal post-production. With these six word stories (and also with a lot of very short stories on Twitter), a lot of dedication and craft has to go into their sculpting. Because of the massive restriction in terms of length, a lot has to be said with a very, very little.

To be honest, that’s quite exciting.

I wrote yesterday that there’s a dearth of short stories in the national curriculum. Today I bring good news. First is that the AQA English Literature syllabus now features exclusively short stories in its Sunlight on the Grass anthology. Second is that I’ve chosen to teach my Year 9s a unit on short stories; by the end of the week I hope that we’ll have each constructed some six word stories.

Tough call.

* Still not convinced concision is a real word.

** A whole other topic, that.

*** Remind me to read his debut novel.

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Shortness

One thought on “Shortness

  1. Phill Smith says:

    I misread ‘flash fiction’ as ‘slash fiction’ which made me office lol when I read:

    To my mind, flash fiction is all about the splurge

    Yeah, OK.
    Short stories should definitely be on the curriculum at schools, they are the most accessible form of writing both to read and, more importantly in this context, to write. They study the writing style of novels but then have to write shorts, without having the opportunity to study the methodology and tricks that prowriters use to sidestep the shortcomings of the format. Actually studying short fiction and learning concision* and compact punchy writing will be great I reckon.

    *Just so you know, concision is a perfectly cromulent word.

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