Telling Tales

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Having taken some time out from ‘storytelling’ (my own immature over-reaction to the discovery that nobody ever reads my ‘Little Fictions’) I recently decided that the time was ripe to begin again (my angsty response to the realisation that very few people read my anything).  Not on a regular basis, you understand, but on more of a laissez faire footing.  (It’s my blog so I can do what I like etc etc…)

Short stories – as opposed to their more gregarious long-form cousins – appeal to me because I have never been hampered by lack of experience when writing them and, if I’m honest, so much has to be left out of these tales that almost anything can be sidestepped with a little effort.  (One of the reasons I – alone – love Frankie & Benny so much is that I do not have to worry about plot, development or denouement.  I just have to eavesdrop on their conversation.)  What I don’t know, I make up.  Research?  What do I want with research?  I’m not a university post-grad.  I will occasionally check a fact if it is called for, but if it doesn’t exactly tally with what I want from it, I have been known to twist it just a little.  Happily ‘artistic licence’ is equally available to journeymen.

I have been trying for a while now to keep the word-count of each published post down to a level that does not test your patience quite so much as once it did, but the problem with ‘stories’ is that there is so much more to fit in: a beginning, a middle and (occasionally) an end for a start; by the time I have parachuted half a dozen gags in and removed the most tortuous contortions from my syntax I am inevitably left on the border of ‘should I split this into two parts?’ territory.  The answer, for anybody else that might be tempted, is ‘No’.  Half of the people who read part one will decide that there is nothing to gain from reading part two (they have either guessed the ending, misunderstood the beginning, or decided that life is far too short) and nobody ever reads part two when they have not tackled part one.  Reader-wise, part two, even if it culminates in the most cunningly contrived plot twist since Agatha Christie last dipped her nib, will be read by one man and his dog (unless the dog can find a more enticing arse to lick).  It is better to plod on – even in the light of the knowledge that once the word-count pops its nose above the parapet of a thousand words most readers will blow it off – and none-the-less get the saga out there in a single overlong splodge.

So, here’s the strange thing.  Having spent the last few months wheeling out my usual tosh in bright, new 500-600 word segments, I find that, quite unexpectedly, the meandering paths of my most recent fables have resolved themselves into their literary cul-de-sacs in a not dissimilar length of time.  My tales, although no less a waste of words, do actually waste less of them now – they are even shorter stories – which leads me, of course, to worry: are they now too stripped down?  Will even fewer people bother to read them?  (My guess is that unless WordPress introduce negative ‘Views’, the answer will probably be ‘No’.)  And then, inevitably, to ‘does it really matter, I’m not being paid by the word – in fact, I’m not being paid at all’.  In days of yore I had a gift for hitting the editor’s requirements, word-wise, on the very head: not gifting so much as a free sentence to the cause, but now, happily, I don’t have that worry.  I have few (although extremely discerning) readers, no payments and no worries.  And such tales as I now have to tell will take as long as they need to be told.  And when they need to be told, I will tell them…


17 thoughts on “Telling Tales

  1. For what its worth few people DO decide to continue on if they come into a tale- long or short, thin or shaggy- and discover it is part 2,3, etc and they have to go back to the very beginning. (Sounds like a cue for a crap song???) Coming to a story partway through is, excuse the pun, a serial killer. Yeah, sorry, but its true. One of the few I have done it to is Crispy’s plimsols, as a matter of fact.
    OK, I’ll throw another on the punishment pile- ‘retraced my steps.’ Yes, sad.

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  2. I visit your blog every day I make my rounds and if there is something here, I read it and (almost invariably) enjoy it immensely. If I feel it’s too long to do it justice at that moment I come back when I can enjoy it.

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    1. The too long issue is a real problem. Sometimes things just can’t be shortened. I know I struggle in reading when things run beyond the time I have available. I’m very grateful for everyone that reads any of it.

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  3. I wrote a lengthy (4 sentences) response to this and then lost my internet connection. It was a very sensible comment. Anyway, I usually read your blog from cover to cover and spend an hour or so in the early morning reading the blogs – as long as I don’t feel obliged to read someone’s blog because they read mine. If I feel obligated I can’t concentrate!

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