What Is…?

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It is terrifying and large—
Resembling a giant ink spot, but much more ominous.
Its effect on me seems surreal:
I was comfortably at my desk, fingers moving along my computer keyboard as they always do.
Invariably, my curiosity about the world spills onto the virtual page with relative ease.

But not now.

Wait! I mustn’t. I can’t. I watch as a bystander while that hovering image, imprinted in my brain, constrains me. I have known writer’s block. This is no writer’s block.

Too much, it says. Think again, it commands. Gain control, it insists. 

What is happening to me?

***************

NOTE:

As anyone who has visited this blog is aware, I do not usually write with brevity. I started writing my posts with a self-imposed limit of 1000 words, understanding that readers have busy lives and don’t always want to plow through long treatises. But I blew through that one fairly quickly because I’m always so fascinated by my topic that I make the assumption (undoubtedly sometimes erroneously) that you will be too.

The above is an experiment in what has been called “flash fiction.” It was inspired by several of my posts receiving “likes” from an entity known as The Drabble, “a site dedicated to publishing original fiction, non-fiction, and poetic works of 100 words or less.” If they could look at my 2000-word essays and assume I could pare down a story to 100 words, that was a challenge I had to take up.

The people behind The Drabble have written:

“You may wonder if it’s even possible to write a good story in fewer than 100 words. We say yes, although it’s certainly not easy. Most modern narrative art adheres in some way to Shakespeare’s three-act structure (i.e., conflict, rising action/crisis, resolution), whilst presenting a clear theme. Must all these elements be present to tell a good story? Grant Faulkner, co-founder of 100 Word Story, thinks so. In his essay, ‘Writing with Gaps,’ Faulkner says,

‘I think the best 100-word stories move with the escalation any story has. They have a beginning, middle, and end—a telling pivot, an emotional velocity.’”

And they add this description from Hemingway:

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing, he may omit things that he knows, and the reader…will feel those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

The concept of “flash fiction” is reportedly traceable to three men at the UK Science Fiction Society at Birmingham (England) University—and inspired by the wacky Monty Python group, who wrote about it in Big Red Book, published in 1971. According to drablr.com (The History of the Drabble),”The participants gathered around a fire, sipping brandy and partaking of pleasant conversation with friends and challenge each other to write a novel. The first to finish wins.”

I won’t go into the origins more deeply, but they actually stretch back to Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and have more recently included works by such prominent science fiction writers as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. If you’re interested, you can read more about the history of the form here.

This background provides you with the impetus for the piece above. It is precisely 100 words, so I succeeded in terms of brevity, which was my own big question mark. Brevity alone is fine, but not enough. I am eager for your reactions. Did this mini-story catch and hold your interest? Do you think I met the sense of the Drabble as it’s been outlined? Is this a welcome change from my verbosity—or not? Please be candid in your responses. I am a nonfiction writer dabbling/drabbling in a new garden.

Annie

11 thoughts on “What Is…?

  1. This may not be your forte, but it could be. Several things I like here. The first person POV tells me exactly what the person is feeling, which generates empathy. He or she can’t write and they know it’s not writer’s block… its something else.

    This spot is overpowering. Could it be her having a mental break down, or is it him fighting a split personality? I don’t know if this is a man or woman but I’m fully vested in wanting to know how he/she gains control… as it insists.

    I like the 100 word limit on the story. It teaches a writing discipline that some find hard to do. The only caveat is we don’t get the meat and potatoes of what is going on here. 1000 words or more would have satisfied my need for who this person is and what really is happening.

    Once you hook your readers on a story, they will continue to read it if it captivates them as this story did.

    Bravo Annie. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Darnell. Your insights are extremely helpful—and they suggested to me that I accomplished more than I thought. Taking the Hemingway quote about the iceberg, I’m pleased that you were filling in your own conjectures about what was hindering the writer—and that you cared enough to do so. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
      Cheers,
      Annie

      Liked by 1 person

  2. By George, I think she’s got it! (said in my best Henry Higgins voice) You certainly caught my attention! I vote for more dabbling in Drabbleing! Xoxo Fred

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 100 words is a challenge. See there, I already wasted 5 when in fact what I seek to do is to encourage you to play in this form. I think you can do anything with language, so I’m all for your experimentation. As to this specific piece, I’m left wondering. If this was your intent, you have succeeded. I also love the brevity: allows me to read and reread. Let’s talk pictures a moment. Is that ink splat cheating in the 100 word thing? The famous six-word Heminingway on baby shoes told us plenty without the visual. Just saying: the challenge is on! Go for it. You’re amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, thank you so much for your encouragement! Yes, I’m hoping that people will fill in the story—going beneath the iceberg, a la Hemingway. By the way, I learned that Hemingway didn’t actually write those 6 words, though whoever did is brilliant.

      Good question about the visual. I felt it was necessary for WordPress, but I don’t know otherwise. Maybe better to leave more to the reader’s imagination?

      For the first time, your “like” came through with info about your workshops, etc. That was a happy surprise!

      Annie

      Like

  4. Liked your flash fiction about writer’s block as a giant ink spot.

    And I didn’t know that about the history of flash fiction.

    I first encountered the term back in 2012.

    I find it interesting that its roots can be traced back to Monty Python.

    And now for something completely different…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Christopher.
      Actually, the huge ink spot is The Drabble group’s avatar. I first saw it when I received their likes on a couple of my posts, and I found it incredibly creepy. That was the impetus for the story.
      Definitely a new experience for me—something completely different!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. hi Annie!
    I just love the way your posts make me think…
    I remember writing a short story for a contest once where the word limit was 500 words – I found it incredibly difficult to pare things down and still maintain a plot! I didn’t win the contest, but what a great writing exercise.

    Here, in free verse, it may be a little easier to creatively cover a topic with a small number of words, and you’ve done it very well. I love the way you leave us hanging in terms of specifics but the emotions and problems are there. I read it three times and was not sure what the visual represented but it obviously made you fearful and stifled your writing process. It really doesn’t matter what the blot represents – the question I’m left wondering is: “how did she overcome her reaction to this stimulus?”

    Well done!! Thank you for this 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your generous comment, Janine! It is a rigorous exercise to try to tell a story briefly. In some ways, 500 words may be more difficult than 100.

      Perhaps at some point I’ll answer your question–in fewer than 10 words!

      Great to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

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