Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Grant Faulkner

A new mystery book—sort of     

0

Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words was published more than seven years ago—about the time I started this website—and I decided to take another look at the book.  The result of this look is a new edition.  I edited and revised some stories, deleted others and added about a dozen new stories with twist or mystery endings.

Can a 100-word story have a surprise ending? Yes, it’s part of the challenge. As I wrote in the introduction to the previous edition of the book, the challenge to tell a complete story in exactly 100 words is the lure of this genre.

Here is the Amazon link for the ebook:   https://amzn.to/2mIfC0s   It will soon be available at barnesandnoble.com and the other places.

Extremely short, tiny, miniscule bits of fiction have been around for a long time.  Aesop’s fables are a good example. Written in the sixth century BCE, Androcles (and the Lion) contains only 265 words, and The Ant and the Grasshopper uses only 150 words. Ernest Hemingway reputedly wrote a six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Welcome to flash fiction.  Books and a broad variety of online literary magazines and some print magazines feature these short-shorts. Actually short-shorts is not an appropriate description  as it often refers to short stories of a few pages or more, not a few paragraphs or a few sentences. Flash fiction seems to be the most commonly used name for these snippets of creative writing, although some online magazines refer to micro fiction, nano fiction, sudden fiction, or quick fiction.

As to the best length for flash fiction, there’s little agreement. Even though the 100-word limit is common, a variety of print and online magazines and published anthologies restrict flash fiction stories to 1,000, 2,500, and even 5,000 words. Compared to a 100-word tale, the longer stories could hardly be read in a flash. Wikipedia does little to establish a common length saying, “flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity.”

Journals such as 100 Word Story and 101 Words need no explanation. Some other online publications are looking for what Wikipedia calls twitterature, that is, stories of 280 characters or less. Everyday Fiction sets the limit at 1,000 words but encourages writers who can tell a story in 50.  

Before publishing the first edition of this book I published stories in a variety of online flash fiction literary magazines, including my favorite, 100 Word Story.  Editor Grant Faulkner says the 100-word limit is an arbitrary marker that “forces the writer to question every word.”

It’s a good discipline. A number of years ago a friend of mine told me his writing group was working on an exercise in which they had to tell a story in just 100 words.  I had never heard of flash fiction before and was intrigued.  At first I wrote cop stories, then branched out into the variety of genres represented in the book.  More than half the stories in the new book have to do with detective work, crime, or general law enforcement.  The balance include humor, speculative fiction and a little romance.

Yes, each story contains exactly 100 words.  And you have to know the rules.  Hyphenated words count as one word and titles are not included in the word count. Numerals, even those separated by commas count as one word. The counting function on MS Word seems to have its own rules, so I count by hand as well.

I agree with Faulkner.  This genre makes you question each word.  But now that I’m spending most of my time on novel-length mysteries, I still try to remember the value of each word.

Here’s a sample story from Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words:

 On the House

Starting her workday baking before sunrise always made Sophie’s concentration sag by 9 a.m., but looking across the counter at a gun barrel got her immediate attention.

“Gimme the money,” the gunman said.

Sophie glanced over the man’s shoulder, moved toward the cash register—then ducked.

The cop standing behind the robber threw him against the counter, as another officer grabbed the gun.

“You gotta be the dumbest crook I ever met,” said the first cop. “Okay, maybe you didn’t see our car in the lot, but really…”

“Thanks, Kelly,” Sophie said. “From now on, doughnuts are on the house.”

—————–

“…it is rather remarkable that the author is able to introduce a cast of characters, set a stage for them to act upon, and play out a scenario—sometimes involving cops and crooks—in which something unexpected happens, all in exactly 100 words.”
MysteriousReviews.com

Faulkner’s ‘Fissures’ filled with strange moments

0
Fissures
Grant Faulkner
Press 53    2015
122 pages
Trade paper $14.95

“We all carry so many strange little moments within us,” author Grant Faulkner says in the introduction to his new book of one hundred, 100-word stories. In Fissures he offers weird day dreams, wonderful expressions, stories of love and morality, character studies and other “strange little moments” that will have you rereading, pondering and admiring these delicately crafted vignettes.

Although short tales have been around since Aesop, flash fiction has only recently become an accepted–though evolving–literary genre, and a challenging one, especially if you limit yourself to an arbitrary 100 words. Arbitrary is perhaps not the correct terminology because the 100-word limit fissures-web-optiseems to be the most widely accepted format for flash fiction, though there are others. The arbitrariness lies in selecting this daunting form.

Faulkner’s stories sometimes neared 150 words as he wrote, he explains in the introduction. But with discipline, the excess is removed. And the result is a collection of precise, incredibly creative moments in the lives of Faulkner’s characters.

Faulkner is not a newcomer to the genre. He is founder of the online literary journal, 100 Word Story. He’s also executive director of National Novel Writing Month.

It’s impossible to provide a complete review or synopsis of any 100-word story without almost repeating the story. Instead, let’s talk about the book’s style, subject matter and characters.   In his flash fiction, it’s Faulkner’s sentences that make the stories and it’s his inventive metaphors, similes and his succinct philosophical observations that make the sentences. A few samples:

True lovers are experts at constructing penitentiaries.

He felt like a cheerleader with Tourette Syndrome.

Funny how when Russians speak, it always sounds like someone is going to get killed.

Palm trees swayed like drugged witches… Continue Reading →

Faulkner’s fresh look at flash fiction

Everyone has his or her idea of what constitutes flash fiction.  I’ve noted this before.  Defining flash fiction by word length seems the easy way to do it.  Problem is, few editors and writers can agree on the various labels to attach to say, 100-word stories, 1,000-word stories or even 25-word stories.

Flash fiction, however, is more than numbers and no one has explained that better than Grant Faulkner, editor of “100 word story,” in a recent New York Times op-ed piece.   Talking about his introduction to the miniature genre, Faulker says, “Most of my writing life has been a training ground of ‘more,’ so I rarely conceived of less.”  But when a friend of his suggested he try a 100-story, he was at first exasperated.  “At best, I could chisel a story down to 150 words,” he writes, “but I was frustrated by the gobs of material I left out.”

This frustration led Faulkner to examine his writing habits and eventually he discovered “a different kind of storytelling.”  The balance of his article beautifully describes flash fiction in qualitative and rather than quantitative terms and, perhaps without intending to, makes the case that flash should be an integral part of a comprehensive literary education.

“Flash allows literature to be a part of our everyday life,” he writes, “even if we are strange multitasking creatures addled by a world that demands more, more, more.”

The New York Times used Faulkner’s article as the basis for a language arts lesson plan on flash fiction, part of its Learning Network.  The lesson plan references a relatively recent book edited by Robert Swartwood, “Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer.”  In his introduction, Swartwood establishes a hierarchy of story length: sudden fiction, flash fiction, micro fiction, drabble and dribble, the latter being 50 words.   Obviously, his final category is hint fiction of 25 words.

“Hint fiction,” he says, “should not be complete by it having a beginning, middle and end.  Instead it should be complete by standing by itself as its own little world.”

Twenty five words seems a bit too short for a story.  But not too short for a hint of one?

 

Hyperlinks:

Going long.  Going Short. by Grant Faulkner

Flash fiction lesson plan

Hint Fiction edited by Robert Swartwood

%d bloggers like this: