Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Welcome to Wordvoodoo!

Dan Rhodes is one Britain's most innovative young writers (although, given that he was born two years before me, I guess I am flattering myself to call him "young"!). Anyway, you can read more about him on contemporary writers here, and his own website can be found here.

And you can read some other interesting articles about and interviews with him here:
Between 1997-8, whilst spending his days fruit-picking on a farm, he wrote a collection of short stories called Anthropology.

The bold and interesting thing about this collection was not that it consisted of lots of short stories - many writers have done the same. The difference was that each and every one of these stories was written in precisely 101 words.

[You can read some of the stories here; and you can even view a series of short films inspired by some of them here.]

Many POETIC forms make incredible demands of the poet, demanding they write something PROFOUND, DURABLE, IMAGINATIVE, BRAVE and EXPERIMENTAL whilst also strictly obeying a strict set of rules - whether it be a HAIKU, a SONNET or whatever (and we will be attempting some of these on this blog in the coming weeks and months).

But it is more rare for a PROSE writer to work within such confines - and Rhodes' Anthropology tales are, therefore, a unique experiment in balancing the restrictions of form with the potential of imaginative language and content.

Done well, therefore, these 101-word stories should be able to achieve all that a longer story could do, but with greater impact and power due to its distilled, concentrated form: kind of like boiling the essence of a good story down into its purest form.

What makes a good story? In short...
  • A tight structure, with a strategic start and end and use of tension in between.
  • A reliance on metaphor over literality (i.e. show not tell).
  • A rejection of cliche and overused vocabulary in favour of something bolder and braver.
  • An engagement and 'hooking' of the reader into the story's world.
And to achieve these three things in 101 words is one hell of a feat! In fact, more than in any other piece of writing, the writer needs to consider each and every ONE of these 101 words with interminable care and discretion: any wastage or poor choice is a missed opportunity.

As you have probably guessed by now, your first task on this blog is to write your own story in 101 words.

To be honest, I do not mind what you choose as your title - so be creative and original. But your THEME should be something along the lines of RELATIONSHIPS.

What I want to see is an ambitious, meticulous approach to narrative distillation: a perfect story which makes no compromises due to its brevity, and achieves all I have mentioned above regardless.

A lazy blogger could rush this task off in a few minutes. But, in truth, I believe that, done properly, this task is actually very DIFFICULT and TIME-CONSUMING.

The deadline for your first task is MIDNIGHT on Sunday 10th October.

So good luck! And I will post my own attempt shortly...

P.S. NONE of you should be making any CARELESS spelling/punctuation/grammar mistakes - so make sure you don't post anything which hasn't been checked thoroughly first...

Good luck!


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