Unhappy Relationships and Death

Here is my thesis:

Death is an event, not a story.

Here is my second thesis:

A description of one or more (unhappy) people is a character sketch, not a story.

A story implies motion. It’s not just description. Something needs to change.

With regards to the twitter-sized fiction that I read on a daily basis, this means that the reader should be able to at least infer some change taking place, either before, during, or after the actual words of the piece itself. After all, this isn’t a summary or a synopsis. We’re talking about an iceberg here: the tip is showing above the water, but we know the vast majority of all that ice is underneath the surface.

Now, what about twitter-fiction for twitter-fiction’s sake—who cares? Plenty of my Midnight Stories are not actual stories. They’re character sketches, scenarios, premises, scenes, moments, etc. You could think of it as a writing journal that I share on the internet. Some pieces are finished; many are not. Fine fine. In fact, not all good pieces (of any length) are stories. That’s fine too.

But for Nanoism (including the great contest we’re running through the end of the week), I’m looking for characters I’m interested in and a plot that’s at least mildly discernible. The problem with unhappy relationships and death (especially murder, argh!) is that I don’t care. As Hint Fiction guru Robert Swartwood says in this post (that I completely agree with), you don’t want to write “a story that many other writers would probably come up with at some point.”

And if your story involves someone thinking pithy thoughts during a plane crash, a wife getting revenge on a cheating husband, a husband going ballistic because of an annoying wife, a murderer just plain murdering someone for no particular reason—then you probably have.


J.S. Graustein 04.27.10 Reply

Well stated, Ben.

Ben 04.27.10 Reply

Why thank you!

David Shrock 05.02.10 Reply

The list at Strange Horizons “Stories we see too often” (http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml) applies to stories of any size.

Murder stories can be good, but the ones we enjoy and remember usually aren’t about the murder.

Ben 05.02.10 Reply

I love that list! It’s exceptionally accurate. And I take your point—in the end, it’s partially a numbers game. There are plenty of good murder stories. The percentage of the total though ends up pretty low.

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