Baby Shoes, Never Sold

The other day I decided very quickly that I did not like short short stories. It was while holding a book claiming to contain the most beautiful and shortest short stories in the English language (most under 150 words), and while flipping through the thing, my mouth started turning down at the edges and I’m almost certain I developed a snarl… Yes, I did not like it. Then I needed to know why.

Were they pithy? Well, yes, I suppose, but that’s more the format than anything. And it wasn’t the concise language that bothered me. I tend to get a little agro anytime I feel a sentence has moved beyond the fewest necessary words to convey its meaning. Which is not to say I only accept small sentences. A lengthy sentence has its place. But, sentences containing filler words that do nothing more than take up room on the page make my stomach turn. Anyway, I did not dislike them for being pithy.

Then I started to wonder if it was just the length of the thing… there was something bothering me about how it were possible to arrive at one of these miniscule stories by shear chance. Statistically those 100 hypothetical monkeys typing away to arrive at the complete works of Shakespeare had a lot better chance churning out one of these babies. It’s worrisome for a writer to wonder if her short shorts are being produced verbatim by some other woman at the very same time, simply because of the limited possible combinations of words to convey the existential grief of a babysitter in Kentucky in a short short format.

I don’t know why I chose the topic of babysitters, but you get my meaning. If you do not get my meaning, I apologize for going off the deep end of theoretical story writing with the use of 100 monkeys.

Nevertheless, I was not bothered by the statistics. After grumbling at it and letting the book leave my sight, I decided that the reason I did not like the short stories was that they left far too much to the interpretation of the reader, and I felt like that just wasn’t fair on the part of the writer. It’s our job to put as clear a picture in the reader’s head as possible, so that they may live out our thoughts with their own brains. Right? Hm, no, that sounds wrong now that I’ve written it. There is, however, a relationship between reader’s interpretation and the writer’s direction, and that is where a story lives. So, by relying too much (by limiting ones words to under 150) on the reader’s mind, it feels like a violation of this contract.

Then again, I also hate lateral thinking puzzles. No insights, no further explanation there. I just really hate lateral thinking puzzles.

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