Can You Tell A Story In A Sentence?

Storytelling is hard, or easy, depending on who you ask. Traditionally stories were told by mouth, around a fire, by the moonlight or on the way back from the farm. The average folk tale would be the length of today’s short story, approximately 1500 words or less. With the advent of printers and the pay per word culture, story telling exploded into long epic tales with many chapters and even volumes. The average novel is about 70-80,000 words long. For some stories, a single book is not enough, volumes and sequels are needed– Harry Potter, Song of Fire and Ice (Or Game of Thrones Series).

But while stories have grown longer, they have grown shorter too. The Internet and the use of phones as e-readers have provided an opportunity for people to read things ‘on the go’, in the time it takes to finish a drink, wait for a train or ride to a bus stop, one can read and enjoy a complete tale.

These ‘shorter short’ stories have gone by many names, but the most common one seems to be flash fiction. Flash fiction is said to be any story 1000 words or less. Within this class there are many other shorter/smaller stories still:  there is short flash usually between 300-500 words, micro-fiction below 300, drabbles at 100 words, 50 word stories, and any number of words below.

( I have seen calls for 17 word memoirs, 10 word stories, six word stories and even four word stories)

Some other people classify their flash fiction by characters, so there are 280 character stories, 160 and even 140 characters. These were designed to take advantage of the character limits on SMS and Twitter, while giving a satisfying flash fiction experience. The emphasis being brevity and completeness.

The one sentence story is a twist on the theme. Can a story be told not only with a few words but with a single sentence?

A literary magazine, The Monkey Bicycle, is exploring this space. The magazine is currently taking submissions for their ‘One Sentence’ category which they hope to post every week.

A few stories are already up and the possibilities hinted at are endless. While some stories there are less than 17 words, others extend beyond 50 words. The test is in being able to keep the story going for as long as possible while delivering a pleasant reading experience.

Since I saw the challenge, I have been thinking about one sentence stories a lot. What can be done with the form? What sort of stories would flourish best in it? How can I use the form to create a pleasant experience?

I don’t have all the answers yet, but I will definitely explore the possibilities. For now, enjoy today’s offering

 

Village Rendevous

When Abel promised to show us a good time in the village we believed him, it would be a weekend filled with palmwine, bushmeat, and beautiful women, we thought; we weren’t ready for the gunshots that rang out that night and sent us running into the bush, or the severe malaria, diarrhea and rashes we had, in the days that followed.

 

Hope you liked my one sentence story. Now share yours in the comments or send to me via mail or send it to The Monkey Bicycle for a chance to be published.

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Letter To An ‘Aspiring’ Writer

Fellow writer,

Do not aspire, write.

Aspiring work does not exist, only written work does.

When you are starting and dabbling you can call your self ‘amateur’ but don’t expect anyone to ever pay you if you do.

When you have spent enough time on your craft, writing for friends and family and for free, then you must decide if that is enough or if you want more.

Writing contests are a good way to get your work recognized and to finally see a cheque, some cash or a credit alert.

So look for contests that interest you and enter all that are free. You will only gain by so doing: fame, fortune and joy or at least a finished piece.

Set your writing goals be as lofty as you please then set your targets: little things you can control and guarantee.

Value editing and the voice of your beta-readers, remember no one can see his back except through a glass.

Most advice is false but the ones that are meant for you will look you in the eye and you will quiver with recognition. Four of these are however universal: read, read, read, write, read, read, edit, and submit/ publish.

Iron sharpens iron so find the literati and sit with them. Many good things have happened to me this way: contests, calls for submissions, anthology invitations, submission fee grants, free books and so much more. The child by the pot is fed before those outside the hut.

Find those whose work you deeply admire: people and journals. Study them, mimic them and maybe find your calling.

Be consistent, time flies and you can lose much by simply watching the days and deadlines flash by. Know all the time sensitive parts of your goals: the Under 18, 21, 30,35,40 and so on.

Don’t be too full of yourself or your art, make friends, appreciate your readers and fans.
Remember the tripod of writing success: read with purpose, write with passion and build your community.

Support the work of others but don’t be afraid to disagree.

Don’t let anyone put you on a hole, write anything you want to write, use pseudonyms if you must.

Don’t quit your job (if you have one).

Don’t publish first drafts. Don’t be distracted by sub-plot. Don’t pretend to be what/ who you are not.

Commit to being your best self. Send your work to people who can tell you the truth about it (hard and painful and cruel) before you send it to the world.

Lastly, stop aspiring my friend, this is writing not a presidential election.

Yours in the fellowship of the pen,
N.M.

 

•••

To help writers who want to achieve more with their work but aren’t sure how to do this, we are starting a writing group called Eagle’s Crest.

To Join, send an email to Stnaija at gmail

dot com.  before Jan 31st.

Thank you for reading the NaijaWriter.

The Heat Is On

“Loves the fire but can’t stand the heat.” Famous last words spoken to me by an ex-girlfriend. Years later, the words linger; dancing around my sub-concious, jumping to the fore, like they did today.

What brought them up? A little experiment. Instead of moaning about bad blogs and sloppy writing, I decided to do something about it.

What did I do?
I started the #BlogPolice.

What is that?

It is a platform to call out bad writing on blogs, things like clichés, gratuitous adverbs, typos, redundancy, chunky writing and tense confusion.

Does that mean you are perfect?

No, it doesn’t. We found an omission on our blog and mentioned it too. There’s no perfect writer and no perfect blogpost. The aim is to encourage people to make an effort and to give people a sense of accountability.

Why do you want to do that? Does it work?

We want to do that because we care about writing and we care about writers. We left names out so no one would feel victimised or picked on. We added a #BlogAngels bit later on and talked about the good things we noticed as well.

The idea was culled from the Twitter typo-spotting tyrants, handles like: Grammar Police, Gbagaun Detector, Sharp Spotter etc. These handles were dedicated to spotting typographical errors on Twitter. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes, they were a pain in the neck. In any case, they made people read over their tweets and double check before they sent them. They made tweeters accountable.

The Blog Police was meant to do the same thing. It was meant to remind bloggers that people heed their ‘Please read and comment’ requests. It was to show that the effort they spent proof-reading, redrafting or rewriting a post was not wasted.

Alas, it failed.

Despite listing the offending sentences and phrases in anonymity, some people still decided to raid my direct messages with tirades. They went on to state that I should never mention their blogs again. Some unfollowed after that. Some had me blocked.

Normal events, except that these were the same people clamouring for names of offenders be affixed to their ‘blog crimes’. Some of them asked that offenders should be informed so they ‘learn from their mistakes’.

All the while, lying through their fingertips.

The #BlogPolice is defunct. It was a rewarding experiment. It made me read many things I don’t usually read. It taught me open-mindedness and patience.

It also made me notice the great work some people are doing on their blogs.

Most of all, it made me realise that people are often as two-faced as a cheap coin. They can smile with you in the sunshine and stick a dagger into your groin at night.

No wonder the Book says “Woe is he that trusts in a man.”

It raises questions though.

In the world today, every product or service gets reviewed. Some get nods and others get knocks. Sometimes the same product gets both nods and knocks. It doesn’t mean the producer is a bad person, it just means there is room for improvement.

It is great to hear rave reviews. People telling you how amazing you are is soothing. To get better, though, we have to listen to less than savoury stuff. We have to pay attention to issues raised and treat them if they are real or toss them if they are malicious.

If a blogger can’t cope with having a single sentence queried, how will they cope? When they get Kakutanied?