Craigslist Fiction and Iranian Food

I’ve been fascinated recently by what I think of as authentic stories: writing that—while fictional—uses everyday forms to tell realistic, might-as-well-be-true stories. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional narrative. It’s familiar and effective. But still, there are true stories everywhere, hidden within the innocuous interactions of the 21st century for anyone who cares to pause and consider. While many people familiar with Hemingway’s (apocryphal) famous six-word story (“For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn”) note its brevity, I focus on its form: the personal ad.

I’ve been calling these types of stories “Craigslist Fiction.” A story that uses an authentic form (personal ad, email, etc.) should 1) be read convincingly as an actual example of that medium (i.e. an actual Craigslist ad)  and 2) must still relate a story. Like “hint fiction,” some of the details are merely hinted at (i.e. omitted), but it’s my view that Hemingway (or the person who probably wrote these long before him) was on to something. Because how often do you read something on a site like Craigslist and think: what kind of person would write that?

My first published very short piece of Craigslist Fiction, “Iranian Food,” appears in this month’s elimae. There are more on the way, soon to be available from where fine writing is read.


Casper McFadden 11.03.09 Reply

You have made me pause and consider. Interestingly enough, though familiar with Craigslist, I’ve never actually checked it out until tonight. And what I’ve found is that there is beauty in few words.

Kayt 11.03.09 Reply

your discussion of the power of spare, precise writing here is excellent, and to me it points to one of the essential facets of poetry – being able to convey what is there without need for the explicit – while not often achieved, I would say it is one of the highest forms of the art – in fact your iranian food piece seems like ‘micro’ prose-poetry to me :-)

Ben 11.03.09 Reply

Casper—it’s almost shocking what people write if you treat web 2.0 like creative writing, if you look past the utility of the transactions to the stories underneath.

Ben 11.03.09 Reply

Kayt—I’ve often felt that good prose poetry and microfiction are almost synonymous. There’s always the debate about whether a particular piece is “story”-enough (to be fiction > poetry), but in the end: compelling is compelling, right?

Marianna Paulson 11.06.09 Reply

I’ve always been a fan of the novel…never the short-story and certainly not poetry.

Amazing how things change when you take away the “I don’t like…” and just stay open to what unfolds.

You and Kayt, both in your own ways, have seeded my garden of reading with some new plants. Different is good. Different keeps things interesting.

Ben 11.09.09 Reply

Thanks Marianna. It’s funny: the novel is this wonderful reading experience and there’s nothing quite like it. But, at the same time, there is something wonderful about digestible creativity that can be an unexpected addition to your day.

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