Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cut it.

I've been playing around trying to cut some of my stories down to 100 words, and then to 25 words.

It's a fascinating exercise -- a little like writing a headline. It might seem impossible at first, but if you practise, it gets easier.

I write a 30-word description of a walk I take regularly over at Once Around the Park. I've found this almost-daily practice fun; and it trains me to remember that there is always more than one way of saying something. It helps me to look for the essence of an idea, or an impression, or a thought.

One of the things that inspired me to try this was a stray comment made by one of my lecturers on a poem by the Roman poet Horace. This particular poem is a description of a journey, and one section has a long list of places that Horace's party passed through, each tagged with a little description. One town, however, is not named. It's described along the lines of 'That place which cannot be named in verse.' The lecturer explained that although the verse form Horace was using followed strict scansion rules (scanning Latin poetry is very much like doing equations) it was unlikely that there really was a city that could not be named in verse. Horace was having a little joke at the expense of less dedicated poets. It might have been difficult to work the name in, the lecturer said, 'but these guys could do anything with words.'

The idea of being able to do anything with words appeals to me, so I keep practising.
  • There's a contest for 25 word stories over at Robert Swartwood's blog. I'm posting a link to get myself a third entry.
  • And if you want more 30-word descriptions of walks, try Lucy at Out with Mol.

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