My husband and I were driving to Syracuse yesterday and, since he can’t stand the over-used techno-pop beat of most mainstream radio stations, he switched over to NPR.
It happened that they were discussing All Things Considered‘s current round of Three Minute Fiction, a bit of a contest for authors of all ages, backgrounds, and publishing credits (or lack thereof), to come up with a short story, 600 words or less, on a given theme or with specific plot parameters. For example, Round 7, which ends at 11:59pm on September 25th, requires the author to have one character leaving and another character arriving.
That’s basically it.
So…. I’m not good at short fiction, particularly this type of short fiction, which is often referred to as micro fiction. The idea behind the “three minute” thing is that you can read it aloud in three minutes or less. Either way, I’m less than awesome at short fiction.
This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of effort or interest. My problem is that I’m verbose. Really, really verbose. I got a 730 on my SAT verbal for a reason. I’d get so caught up in a description that I’d blow the word limit out of the water in no time flat.
The other big problem I run into is my love of character development. I’m used to writing longer fiction, such as my novel, which requires a rather detailed and in depth run of character development. With fiction limited to 600 words, you have to plunk characters down without any introduction or development of any sort. Somehow they have to grow, change, capture and entice a reader in what amounts to a page and a half of double-spaced 12 point font. It’s definitely a challenge to come up with a character so intriguing that he or she sucks the reader in from the first sentence. Don’t you have to give something up in that process? You have to work physical description in snippets of conversation and action. Same with motivation. Somehow all that goes into character development has to be woven into this tiny smattering of fiction.
It’s not my cup of tea, frankly. There’s something inherently beautiful to me about weaving something of a saga around my characters, their trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Maybe I’m short-changing myself, denying myself an opportunity to grow as a writer. And I’m certainly the sort to dabble in other forms of fiction in order to stretch and strengthen my writing muscles. But I doubt I’ve ever produced anything in the short fiction genre, particularly the micro fiction sub-genre, that warrants allowing anyone with a brain and a sense of self-preservation to read it.
Still, for those of you out there who love writing short fiction, the Three Minute Fiction contest is on.