No, that’s not a typo in the title, so grammar nazis, back off! It’s intentional!
A little while back, Brandon and I challenged each other to write some microfiction — specifically, in our case, stories of 110 words or less. You’ll be hearing more about that later in the week from Brandon, but I want to share here the fruit of a conversation that Brandon and I had about writing this microfiction.
Brandon and I have both been contemplating the shortest story ever written:
For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
That’s by Ernest Hemmingway, for the record. Well, we’ve been looking at that short story and trying to figure out why it works. We’ve both come to the conclusion it works because it taps into a shared visceral experience, but it only intimates it, not shouting out loud. Of course the suggestion is that the person putting this ad out has lost a very small baby. We send up a collective sigh of grief; so many people have experience with lost children, we immediately share in the sorrow. The story works because it taps into this shared emotional experience.
Well… what are some shared emotional experiences Brandon and I could tap into for our microfiction?
Dead children is still available, but we (at least at that time) decided not to go to that well. Our culture has become so fragmented, it’s hard to really pin something down. Young love? Sure. As we thought, we bandied about a few ideas. Some worked; many did not.
And once we have a visceral shared experience picked out, we then have to find some way to intimate it so the microfiction packs a punch. This is showing-not-telling taken to the farthest extreme. It risks not explaining something that the audience might miss. That takes a great craft.
Did I reach that with my microfiction? You’ll have to decide when you read it. But, I can tell you this: It’s been an experience trying to write it right.