Little Fictions

Photo by Eileen Pan on Unsplash

At the request of one or two of my readers (it doesn’t take much) I have started to write a few more ‘Little Fictions’ than I have previously done, and I am just beginning to realise how much more tricky than my usual twaddle they are.  For a start, stories need an end.  Not necessarily and ending, but definitely a point at which to finish: if not exactly a classic dénouement, then at least somewhere for them to put their feet up for a while and settle down with a large gin and a packet of Twiglets.  This requires thought and planning.  I am good at neither.  Such talent as I have is more ‘Whizz for Atomms’ than ‘A Brief History of Time’.  Worst of all, planning often requires me to leave things out.  A great line is no longer a great line if it would not naturally come out of the mouth of the character I have just created.  The man with a plan has much more use for ‘No.’

My brain does not necessarily work that way.  It is more of an off-roader.  I have to force it to follow the roadmap and, even then, it has a habit of finding previously unseen cul-de-sacs and exploring them for a little while before getting back under way.  I am one of those dreadful people who prefers a stately chug along the ‘B’ roads in a Morris Minor to a motorway dash in a Porsche and, yes, before you ask, I do quite often stop because I have seen a field full of sheep or a church with a crooked spire.  Give me a pond-full of ducks and, as far as ETA is concerned, all bets are off.

The ‘Little Fictions’ are forcing me to consider what I am doing much more carefully and to premeditate – at least to some extent – what I intend to do next.  I cannot pretend that this comes naturally.  Generally, getting lost on the way is one of the highlights of my day.  Finding my way back is the great adventure.  The joy of ending my journey at a place that I had never intended, compensates for the pain of having to trek back to where I should have been in the first place, and for the embarrassment of having to apologise for turning up two days late, in the wrong clothes, with a head full of feathers.

Not that I always know where I am going when I start the ‘Little Fictions’.  Sometimes I have just a first line in my head, or even just the title.  Eight hundred words (ish) does not leave much scope for plot development and cunning twists, let alone unexpected conclusions, so I often just rely on things falling gently into place.  Mostly they do – although occasionally, just leaving something up in the air can be just as satisfying – ask Icarus.  Then, there is the knowledge that all stories have been told before.  All that can vary is the way in which you tell them.  And, of course, there also remains the lure of the silly – a temptation to which I all too readily succumb.  Is it possible to be silly within the constraints of a properly structured story?  Wibble.

Anyway, the reason I mention this here is that since I have been on this platform, I have grown to understand and confront my limitations: to understand what I do passably well and what I really should leave to others who do it so much better.  And there – I knew that you would be here long before me – is where my problem lies.  It is always possible to find someone who does it much better – whatever it is.  Lately I have been watching Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ and wondering what it is like to do what you do so much better than everybody else?  To know that nobody else actually does do it better?  An experience I will never share.  I start to think, ‘Well, as long as I do the best I can…’ which actually just means setting off from the point of, ‘I know it won’t be good enough, but…’ and that’s really not the way to go about anything, is it?  I will learn to embrace my own mediocrity and squeeze it until the seams give out.  But I might not manage it every week…

Anyway, happily, this is not a story: this is merely an explanation of what is going on when I do write a story – although it does actually have a beginning (carefully placed right near the start), a middle (about half way through) and an end, which is here…

11 thoughts on “Little Fictions

  1. I used to try writing a fiction piece for a monthly prompt. Just once a month, I had to sit down and think how the whole thing was going to work before I started it, in order to make it all fit in to the prompt theme.

    It was hell, so I’m with you on exploring the meandering routes and taking pleasure in aimlessly exploring the unexpected roads. That, I think, is where all the good stuff comes from, as unexpected to you as it is for your readers sometimes. Whether you choose to work on it and make it into a coherent story at all afterwards is another thing. And yes, someone always is ‘better’, but I expect those you think couldn’t possibly do it any better think exactly the same about their work.

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    1. In the end, I do it because I do it, it is what I do. I have always done so, with varying degrees of success, so in that respect it just doesn’t matter. We’re all a little vain though, aren’t we? We’d all like more readers. We’d all like to think that we’re a little better than passable. Ah well… 😉

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      1. Well, definitely better than passable. Your writing has made me snort (not in the Michael Gove way) a good number of times, ‘structured’ or not, so umm… carry on getting on I suppose.

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  2. You’ve been around the block enough to make the journey more romp than trudge. I got no advice- see how less than erudite that was- all I know is, it starts in the mind and if it winds up being printed off on the battered HP, job done, and I’m happy if few others are. We, mostly, write because it makes our journey a less boring one.
    And look what befell Icarus, him and his sunny disposition.

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  3. I used to post a fair bit of fiction on my blog but it’s way harder to write than my usual crap so haven’t done it for a couple of years. But I do enjoy your efforts so don’t become a lazy bastard like me…

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    1. You write every day! Thank you for reading. I really appreciate it. I quite like writing the fiction but it’s an altogether different mindset. My mind is pretty much incapable of not just going where it pleases, so it’s always a shock to me when these things work out

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  4. Fiction does have trickiness but it doesn’t have to be too much about building characters. It can be about people existing around you. Telling a story can be as simple as talking about somebody else’s life. (If you know how to Gossip!) And it can be shorter. I have written stories that were 2-3 lines. The shortest story I have heard about was 6 words. ‘For sale, baby shoes, never used.’ I think this was it. It tells a story of lost baby and getting over it. No scope for getting lost on the way. Give it a try.

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      1. Give it a try. I did it just to challenge myself to write something. Begin a story and give it a funny end. Here’s an example of a story we made in our tiny story class: “He looked in her eyes, blue as the ocean, and…” Complete this sentence in your unique way and you have a Tiny Story. A tiny story is less than 100 characters around 20-30 words. Try.
        Psss: I completed it with: “and cried, “Cataract!”

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