Just for fun ... SHORT shorts!

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Just for fun ... SHORT shorts!

Postby Chris Huntley » May 29, 2008 4:03 pm

GroundlingCom Just for fun ... SHORT shorts!

I read the following passage in the online Theory Book:

Ultra-Short Stories

When writing VERY short stories, these two methods of "paring down" the information [i.e. limiting "Class" or "resolution level"] are often combined, resulting in a loss of perspective AND detail. So how small can a story be and still be a story? The minimal story consists of four dramatic units in a quad. This is the tiniest story that can create an interference pattern between the flow of space and time, encoding both reason and emotion in a way than can be decoded by an audience. However, ANY quad will do, which leads to a great number of minimal stories.


Pulp master Frederic Brown once wrote "Knock" -- described as the shortest SciFi story ever written:

"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door... "


Does that qualify?

--Dave F.



Chris Huntley Re: -- Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #1

I'm sure it qualifies as a short short story. However, from a GAS point of view, I don't think there's enough to qualify, even as a short short. The example really only has two elements -- a situation (last man on Earth) and an activity (a knock on the door). It definitely identifies an inequity between the situation and activity, but does not put it in any context. Therefore, it's a great start of a story but does not indicate author's intent and therefore does not inherently have meaning--a key element of a grand argument story.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers


Benesh Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #2

In certain respects one might consider this short short also a GAS; that is if the reader is moved enough to project all the explicitly missing bits that make a GAS, although probably mostly unconsciously, which is absolutely fine. The probably more interesting literary works of this world are in this respect also not GASs, if one chooses to consider this short short to not to be a GAS. -----READ THE PART DISCUSSING PROPAGANDA, TOWARDS THE END OF THE BOOK. And contrastingly, a fully GASed story or movie would be more obviously bad than a bad but non explicitly GASed one. One can get away with a lot if some of the stuff, if not a lot of it, stays under the skirt (the proverbial one). That is why clothes maketh the man. That is why Dramatica may be most useful as an internalised theory than a program with which to write your stories. And that is great, cause the theory is fee to download; nicht wahr?

GroundlingCom Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #3

"Therefore, it's a great start of a story but ... "

Funny you should mention that.

Famed radio SciFi pulp writer Ernest Kinoy used it as the basis for an "X-Minus One" episode called "Knock" after fleshing it out considerably.
--Dave F.



ogdencl Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #4

Lets add a fixed attitude and a manipulation:

"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door. The man didn't believe in aliens or God, so he convinced himself it was his imagination. "


Even with a full quad, though, it doesn't really seem like a full story, because of the missing thematic elements.

christchick7 Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #5

Thanks...I'm a rank beginner and you just gave me my first
understanding of fixed attitude and manipulation.


Chris Huntley Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #6

No....it's not enough for a full story, but it does introduce a "problem" and then "solve" it in a manner that feels complete, even though it is superficial. A "true" full story (in Dramatica) is a Grand Argument Story. It's structure and dynamics are described by a storyform.

In the short example, theme easily can be implied through the use of adjectives and adverbs. For example:

"The last man on Earth happily sat alone in a comfortable room. Unexpectedly, there was a quiet knock on the door. The foolish man didn't believe in aliens or God, so he quickly convinced himself it was his overactive imagination."


Theme is the story's standard by which elements within the story are judged. Using adjectives and adverbs exposes the author's opinion. In the revised example, the short short story goes from being thematically neutral to something with a bit more color: happily, comfortable, quiet, foolish, quickly, overactive. Even the progression of the added words implies a thematic "direction" (progression) which enhances the thematic "feel" of the story.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers

aiRo25 Re: Just for fun ... SHORT shorts! #7

But of course, if you're going to make it a story, there needs to be a little more. This is an idea, but it involves no cost or consequences. What is the goal? The goal is to deal with the knock at the door. That would be "Understanding." And what is the consequence of not understanding? That would be "conceptualizing" or "developing a plan."

For the sake of showing all this in a few words:

The last man on Earth sat happily alone in a comfortable room. Unexpectedly, there was a quiet knock on the door. The foolish man did not believe in aliens, or in God, so he quickly sought to convince himself it was his overactive imagination. The knock came again. He turned around, his back to the door. He grabbed a pair of ear plugs and put them in. He heard no more knocking at the door.


This feels fuller because something happens, and some action on his part validates that he has made his decision. Of course, the reader still wonders who was knocking, but the story itself feels more complete.


venusEnvy But you're forgetting #8

he was just the last MAN on earth. That isn't a complete story, no, but what if the knock was from the last WOMAN on earth?

Chris Huntley Re: But you're forgetting #9

Sounds like the beginning of a new story. :D

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