by Gina Sestak
Regular readers know by now that we Working Stiffs have declared February to be the month of short fiction. It is, after all, the shortest month.
I have mixed feelings about short fiction myself. In earlier times, writers were often paid by the word, so maybe things did get a bit out of hand. I mean, why write "sunset" when you could cover an entire page with descriptions of the blazing glory of vermilion skies and even the elusive green flash? Writers have to make a living.
We may be going too far in the other directions, though. According to the Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins, "short" derives from the Indo-European root "*sker-", meaning to "cut off," which is also the source of our word "shear." The trick to writing short seems to be the ability to pare away unnecessary verbiage without cutting off so much that the story is left short, flat and meaningless.
It's easy to write, "Jacob fell," but readers are left wondering why he fell, where he fell, whether he fell from a tree or from grace, etc. We need to keep enough detail to convey not only that information but to set a mood and make us care enough to want to read about Jacob in the first place. Otherwise, fiction becomes just as incomprehensible as real life.
So what do you think?
[By the way, you know the longest word in the English language, right? It's "smiles" because there's a mile between the first and last letter. :-)]