March 3, 2013
I have written a short story that is loosely based on the theme of this blog, which I’ll be posting soon. To keep you entertained in the meantime, here are some more fictitious bites consisting of less than one hundred and forty characters; small mouthfuls of stories, if you will.
I’ve entitled this post Dark Thoughts because the jottings included all seem to be dark, depressing or to do with death.
Cinderella put on her plastic, scuffed slipper. The ball wasn’t as good as she’d expected it would be. (102)
I suspect I’m cheating slightly here as this relies on the reader knowing the context of the Cinderella story.
He walked through the door, hung up his coat and looked over at his family watching TV. He would never tell them what he had just done. (135)
She got home and milled about for an hour before she realised it was too quiet. When she checked the bedroom her scream broke the silence. (138)
Abortion. She’d always thought she was an absolutist. The day she walked into the clinic she learnt something new about herself. (128)
I don’t know quite how I feel about this next one.
‘I always wondered what another human’s blood would taste like.’
‘Are you a vampire?’
‘Don’t be stupid girl, I’m just thirsty.’ (125)
I ate breakfast, like every other day. I got the pills and a bottle of gin, like every other day. I didn’t take them. Like every other day. (139)
March 3, 2013
I watched V for Vendettaa while back and it was loaded with excellent quotes. Here are three that happen to be less than one hundred and forty characters each:
‘Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.’ (92) V
‘Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.’ (85) Evey
‘People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.’ (95) V
I promise my next post will contain some of my own creative writing.
March 3, 2013
In August 2011 I started thinking about expressing ideas in less than one hundred and forty characters. Below is what I wrote down.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about what I want to say in one hundred and forty characters. Here are my first few attempts.They are not great but hopefully my progression will be visible in future posts.
She was the kind of person who wore stilettos in the snow. That day she paid the price. The daughter she left never wore high heels. (132 characters.)
That was my first attempt back in April. I prefer my second attempt, which I wrote on the same day.
‘He told me I was fucked up.’
‘Repeatedly. Do you know how much that hurts?’
‘And that’s why you stabbed him with a steak knife?’
‘Yeah.’ (139 characters)
I wrote a couple of others that were too terrible to publish on a blog. After that I had a little break from this to focus on other writing. I found it quite difficult to just come up with something that was less than one hundred and forty characters and told a story. But today I thought about it in a different way. I tried to think of a theme or character or story and then work it into less than one hundred and forty characters. This approach seemd to work well. The first one I came up with had a similar sort of theme to a short story I’ve just written.
I was lost. I was surrounded by people but no one could help me. I’d lost myself. (81 characters)
I quite like this but I think it’s too vague and the narrator is far too self-aware. I think it would have more impact if said narrator wasn’t aware she’d lost herself. I’ll work on this one, I think it is a good starting point.
Next up is a character description:
He was as tall as a yeti but as skinny as a fork. His black gelled hair fell over his face as he hugged his knees and sobbed. (125 characters)
In this description I wanted to create an image of a monster who rapidly diminishes into someone frail. I think it works quite well.
The next one has two versions. I wasn’t sure which one would work better so I thought I’d post both.
I loved you as soon as I met you. But then I got to know you. (61 characters)
I like this but when I wrote it I wasn’t sure if the message was clear enough so I wrote a slightly longer version.
I loved you as soon as I met you. But then I got to know you and you weren’t the person I’d met. (96 characters)
I think I prefer the first one. It’s neat and concise, whereas the second is messy.
This last one isn’t something I created. It’s a conversation I overheard on the bus and I think it speaks volumes about the two girls involved.
Girl 1: ‘Smells like holiday.’
Girl 2: ‘Smells like foreign.’
Girl 1: ‘Yeah, smells like holiday.’ (96 characters)
Girl number two is clearly an idiot (in my humble opinion). I found girl number one’s reaction interesting.
We express ourselves in less than one hundred and forty characters everyday through texts and Twitter. But we quite often use these means of communication to answer a question, promote a link, let someone know what we’re doing. In these cases we often rely on the recipient having previous knowledge of what we’re talking about.
But what about expressing a new or complete idea, telling a story, creating a character? Something that doesn’t rely on the context that is often available on social media websites, for example profile information, photos. Something that doesn’t rely on the reader knowing the narrator. Can you create a good piece of creative writing in less than one hundred and forty characters? Hemingway does with his six word novel, ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’
But is it unusual for someone to create something that attacks our heartstrings with a violin bow, as Hemingway does? Or for someone to write something persuasive in just a few words? Or something that sticks in our brains like a piece of stale chewing gum? I don’t think so. In our daily lives we are surrounded by adverts, headlines and taglines that try to persuade us we can’t live without that half-price sofa. Adverts that are so annoying we will never forget the address for that comparison website. Song lyrics often play with our emotions. Some that spring to mind immediately include, ‘I would do anything for love but I won’t do that.’ If you try not to envisage Meatloaf in that amazing Gothic video and just focus on the sentence, not the song as a whole, I think you’ll agree it’s pretty heavy. What is it he’s not prepared to do? What would I be prepared to do if it really came down to it? In Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash creates an interesting and slightly scary character with the line, ‘I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.’
I’d like to quickly look at an example of writing that isn’t thrown at us everyday via the means of TV, radio or the internet. It’s a quote from a Christina Rossetti poem that I’m very fond of called Remember:
‘Better by far you should forget and smile/ Than that you should remember and be sad.’
These are the final two lines of the poem and on reading the whole poem you can see this is the conclusion the narrator has come to after first wanting to be remembered. In this case I think the quote affects the reader more if they have read the whole poem. But still those two lines, which contain less than one hundred and forty characters, really touch me and make me hope that I could be so thoughtful of others on my deathbed.
I’ve just looked at a few examples here but there is proof in poetry, song lyrics, quotes from fiction, idioms, catch phrases, flash fiction, information captions, advertisements, signs, leaflets, book and film synopses, titles, and labels that it is possible to articulate meaning in just a few words.
I hope to use this blog to practice writing succinctly, to learn to create a complex character with just one sentence, to punch someone in the stomach with something profound. Obviously, not literally; I don’t condone violence in real life, just in fiction. I want to make not only every word but every punctuation mark count. I’d like to end my first post with one question that is for myself but I would also like to open it up to you: If you could only use one hundred and forty characters what would you say?