It’s been some time since it was okay to write a short story that contained an actual story. Funny how naïve we once were, hanging on every word in a story, wondering what would happen to the cool characters and ultimately saying “Wow what a good story that was.” What simpletons we were.
Too many of the stories we get now feature self-absorbed mopes with vapid, whimpering desires for more of everything only to end up dead, wishing they were dead or killing themselves with high-caliber, semi-automatic boredom.
Perhaps to compensate for their who-gives-a-green-fart pointlessness and their eyes-glazing-over snooze factor, modern stories are also appearing in shorter formats—sometimes as few as 100 words.
But brevity is no guarantee of quality. For example, the series of six-word stories I just read — soon to be filmed in New Zealand in a 60 hour feature — about a diphthong named Bob:
• Bob wanted more, but Julie laughed.
• Bob pressured Sarah to hate Julie.
• Bob wanted Mom, who dialed 911.
• Bob loved Emily, who beat feet.
• Bob whimpered, eschewing more manly sobs.
• Sarah wanted Bob to drop dead.
• Emily said Bob creeped her out.
• Accepting the Nobel, Bob said “Meh.”
• Bob felt nothing and later died.
I propose an exciting new format, aimed at returning life and meaning to the short story. The deal: short stories of exactly 265 words, but (how cool is this) incorporating the word “antihistamine.” Why? Because Yoda told me in a dream that being known as the man who invented the 265-word antihistamine yarn would set me up for a life of leisure without the need for leisure suits.
If you would like to submit such a story to this blog for consideration but no money, sex, fame or whatever that leaves (banjo lessons, I suppose) here are some instructions:
From the San Francisco Airport take 101 South to 92 East over the San Mateo Toll Bridge. Then take I-880 North to I-238 East to I-580 East towards Stockton. Exit at Hacienda Drive. Pull over in front of the white Volvo and roll down the passenger side window. Ask the fat man on the bench to sing Ave Maria. You may have to shout. The restrooms are immediately to your right.
In the meantime, here is a sample of what a vibrant 265-word story including the word “antihistamine” looks like. (Don’t try to copy this because I’m pretty savvy.)
265 Word Story (excluding this title and by-line)
By Patrick A. McGuire
There she stood, a beautiful princess named Princess. She was the granted wish of the formerly handsome Prince Otis, who had been turned into a frog by an evil do-gooder.
Fortunately comma Prince Otis-the-frog had earlier snagged a passing fairy with his spring-loaded, water-cooled tongue. In return for his promise to let her go, the fairy granted him three-wishes.
After Princess magically poofed onto the scene via wish number one, Prince Otis should have been happy. But he could see in Princess’s eyes that she looked upon him as just a lowly frog. In fact, she said “Eew! A frog!” and sneezed.
As the fairy handed her an antihistamine, Prince Otis thought “What good is a beautiful princess if you’re a frog and she’s allergic?” Thus, his second request was a no brainer. “I wish I was still handsome Prince Otis, not a frog.”
Unfortunately, since he was technically a frog, his wish words came out in ribbits — and the young fairy was only halfway through her Berlitz course in froggish. What she thought she heard was: “I wish I was silly Prince Otis, a knot-headed frog with some hands.”
There squatted Prince Otis, sporting a slightly knobby head and so many hands that he would go on to great fame on the “Amphibian Idol” circuit as “Lumpy, the clapping frog.”
As for the princess, Prince Otis whispered to the fairy “I sure wish she’d stop screaming.”
In his gratitude, Prince Otis gave the muffled princess and the fairy a thundering round of applause, then set out looking for an agent.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.