What Is…?


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?



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.