06 September, 2008

No, No Story Yet. Have a Wee Novel While You Wait.

A Douglas Adams quote has been tumbling round my head these last several days:
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Politics. Angst. Politics. Exhaustion. Politics. Abandonment (damn Muse). Politics. Tangled Bank. Oh, and did I mention politics?

I've been so wrapped up in the unfolding political drama I haven't had a drop of creativity in my soul. I sit down to try to tap out a few words of this story, and my mind gives me a British salute with one hand and an American one with the other and goes back to obsessing over - you got in one - politics.

Religious fuckery hasn't even held my attention for more than ten seconds, except as it relates to politics.

So no, no story just yet. At this point, I'm not even sure if we'll have one before the election, although my Muse could surprise me with an unexpected triumphal return.

But I wrote a novel tonight. NP, you see, reported on a twelve-word novel contest hosted by NPR, and I found it fascinating. Especially as so many of the winners hadn't written a novel, they'd written a sentence.

People misunderstand flash fiction. They tend to forget that even in the shortest of fiction, to have an honest-to-goodness story, you must incorporate what every story requires: a beginning, a middle and an end. Otherwise, it's not a story. It's a slice-of-life, or a description, or in extreme cases pure fucking egotism, but no story.

(NP is probably going to annihilate me over that statement, and she'll present a brilliant argument I could very easily lose, but my purist streak won't back down: slice-of-life is just that, a thoroughly enjoyable slice. Not a story.)

Here's how I broke down the winners. You have the awesome slices-of-life:
"'There are no atheists in foxholes,' said the chaplain, 'so get out.'" Jonathan Swiller, Highland Mills, New York.
And the excellent short stories:
"Obituary. First five words free, she thought. Charles dead. Yacht for sale." Angela Stucker, Brooklyn, New York.
And the almost-nailed-it:
"Got Grandpa's FBI file. Curiosity sated, Pop's backstory regains renewed luster." By Michael Ravnitzky, Silver Spring, Maryland.
But there's only one winner that I would truly consider a novel:
"Twelve-word novel win changes life. Fame, drugs, adultery, sorrow, tears, blood." By David Hill, New York, New York.
It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it's large enough in scope to be a novel. You can see an arc from nobody through fame and fortune ending in downfall. There's dramatic movement and character change with an actual conclusion. That, my darlings, is a twelve-word novel.

Now that you know the criteria, you can judge whether my own effort hits the mark or is just an exercise in self-delusion:

Veni, vidi, vici. Crossed the Rubicon. Kicked Senate ass. Et tu, Brute?

It's even political. And, speaking of politics...

1 comment:

Atheist Chaplain said...

"'There are no atheists in foxholes,' said the chaplain, 'so get out.'" Jonathan Swiller, Highland Mills, New York.

Hey, I resemble that remark!! but I wouldn't be so callous, as unlike Christians I won't put anyone at risk simply because of their beliefs ;-)