Thursday, May 3, 2012

Short Story Month, Day 3. 300 Characters

So I know what you're thinking now. After yesterday's post, you're thinking, yes, I would like to fuel our modern civilization with a completely random scribble in a cafe, but I just don't have time to write a short story this month. (Really? You don't have time to sit in a cafe and drink some sort of scrumptious coffee beverage while you doodle on a piece of paper? I thought everybody had time for that.)

The thing you should know about short stories right now is that some of them are short. I mean really, really short. You remember that old saw about angels dancing on a head of a pin? Well, some stories dance on the inside of a matchbook cover.

I've mentioned Matchbook stories here before, but it's been awhile. The editor and basically the guy who came up with the whole idea, Kyle Petersen, took a brief hiatus when becoming a new father and sticking with his full time job put artistic endeavors on the back burner for awhile, but he's back. Basically he edits a journal you can fit in the palm of your hand. It's a story that fits inside the cover of a matchbook. As someone in the lit world, he was a little frustrated by how stories don't seem to escape into the world of the non MFA, and had the vision to think that a matchbook, free for the taking, was a great way to put a little story into the hands of the right person at the right time.

But let's forget for the moment the troubling idea of submissions and focus on the task at hand--whittling the story form down to its essence.  The aim is to write a story that takes 300 characters or less (including spaces) and write a true story out of it. On a lark, I wrote one up and got an honorable mention of some sort on the blog, which is neither here nor there, but means I can post my own attempt at the form right here:

The Last Cigarette
As he finally caught a first dim glimpse of the cave's
fabled wonders, Roger thought he'd earned a smoke for his travails. As he
greedily put a cigarette to his lips, he tried to recall Evans' warning about
the place. Too late, he realized it might have had something to do with matches.

However, this was just a light-hearted approach to the challenge, and others proved that you could write a non jokey version even in this tiny context. I think probably the best example to date is Susan McCloskey's "After the War" . In fact, take a look at all the stories over on Matchbook Story , just to get an idea of the possibilities.

I'm thinking of this blog this month as about writing stories without knowing where they are headed. But you don't have to think that way. You could write something that you know you're going to submit to Matchbook Story in hopes of publication. (Kyle has told me that he likes to get little graph style notebook and then block out those 300 squares, but I found it easy enough to do right on his website--it won't let you go further when you've written too much, and this I know for sure.)

So, today's prompt? Well, a complicated scenario isn't quite the thing here, is it? But luckily for you, I have found a random word generator. I'm not going to censor this one, so we better hope it's good. The only thing I know for sure is that it will be some kind of noun...


I mean, are you really, really ready?

Okay, here goes:

...Well, if I'm truthful, which I suppose I should be, the first thing I got was an error message, because the webpage had expired. But the next thing I got was  


Which gives me an idea...

(So far, there have been three matchbook editions. Now Kyle Petersen's looking to discover what he'll put in the fourth.)

logo bySteve Seighman

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