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Really short stories – mini sagas

July 11th, 2009

There are some tiny tiny stories floating around out there. And although it’s not likely you’d ever publish one, they can be a fun exercise, and a good lesson in editing – most of which is cutting! I’ll post about three types of short short stories. First up is mini sagas.

This is the biggest of our tiny stories – it’s all downhill with the word count from here on in. A mini saga is essentially a story in 50 words. Exactly 50.

Personally, I first heard about them in high school, and have always thought them an amusing idea, but I haven’t revisited them since. I found a couple of websites citing Brian Aldiss as the inventor of the mini-saga. I’m not sure on the validity of this, as like I said, it was only a couple of references. There was actually a competition involving Brian Aldiss and the Daily Telegraph, the result of which is this book. I haven’t read it myself, but if you’re interested in mini sagas, it will likely be a good collection (if anyone has read it, please let us know what you think in the comments). I also tried a search on Google for any famous examples, but didn’t get anywhere. Anyone know one?

Obviously the aim is to be as concise as possible. Keep your ideas simple. And be prepared to be a little mysterious – if the reader has to work to fill in the gaps, that’s no bad thing, and it will cost you fewer words.

I had to give this a go of course. I wrote what I thought was a very brief story, but it turned out to be over double the required wordcount! Here is the first draft.

They were crossing the road just as the driver turned the corner. He glared and shook his head, but John simply waved back and smiled.
“Don’t smile at him – he wasn’t indicating,” Said Jane.
“Ah, well ,” John replied, “we all make mistakes.”
They were never quite the same after that. It took a while but eventually Jane was broken by John’s overwhelming positivity.
“I’m leaving you.”
“Well, if you don’t want to be with me it will only make us both unhappy. It’s better this way.”
She left him and took to drink. He found someone else.

This was hard, but a lot of fun. It took about twenty minutes and about five drafts. I was reminded of reducing wordsto fit them into a text (because I’m tight like that). Here is the end result. I actually think it’s pretty good, and I’m surprised that there are two sentences that did not change from the original.

They crossed as the driver turned the corner. He glared. John waved.
“Don’t smile – he wasn’t indicating,” Said Jane.
They were never the same. His positivity broke her.
“I’m leaving.”
“It’s better than us both being unhappy.”
She left. Took to drink. He found someone else.

And I’d love to see yours, so please post them in the comments! For an extra challenge, it might be fun to try one made entirely of dialogue.

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