I’ve just been to a short story writing workshop as part of the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival with Anna Mackenzie and we spent time cutting extraneous words and writing implicitly. (Or, as I used to say…we spent some time on cutting out all extraneous words from our texts and using explicit writing, rather than spelling everything out. See? It’s working!)
The skill is to imply a thousand word backstory in a short sentence.
Anna shared an example of a perfect economical short story. It’s said that Ernest Hemingway wrote this as a challenge. While lunching with friends, he bet he could craft a short story in six words. He wrote it on his napkin, passed it around the table, and deservedly collected his $10 winnings.
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
It reminds me of the shortest poem ever written, called Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes (aka Fleas) by American poet and humourist Strictland Gillilan.
So the challenge is set. I’m not going to get my 100,000 word novel down to six words or a two line poem, but I’ve taken up the red pen. Less is more.