Wednesday, 28 March 2012

When Less is More

Can Less be More? I think it can. In short fiction, especially flash fiction, I believe sparse text to be the most effective. Not everyone agrees with me. My peers, whose critiques I find invaluable, sometimes want detail that I don’t consider necessary. Who is right?
I recently submitted a flash fiction piece of 400 words for an online site. It wasn’t accepted but I was pleased and surprised to receive a mini critique from four readers. Two gave my piece the thumbs-up praising my effort while the other two said they didn’t feel there was enough of a story - they wanted back-story, more facts and reasons why the action took place.
Now, it could be that my writing failed miserably in its attempt to say all I wanted it to say, but it could also be that these particular readers didn’t want to use their own imaginations - that they wanted me to do all the work. One reader said she had more questions than answers. I wanted the reader to ask questions and to supply their own answers so I chose not give names or spell out the exact relationship between the two main characters - or even the gender of my protagonist, because that did not matter. A third character is absent - exactly where he now is, is unimportant - but my reader wanted to know. The other reader suggested my last paragraph should come first - to explain what was happening. To me, this would have rendered the whole story utterly pointless.
I’m re-examining my text to decide if I should re-write it, but my question is - did I fail those readers or did they fail me?

I sent it out into the world again. After it was shortlisted in two competitions, it was then placed third in Words With Jam Shorter story competition. I hadn't changed a word. You can read it here see who you agree with. Beneath the Arches

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