The whole thing started with Ernest Hemingway, the master of spare, telegraphic writing. As the story goes, Hemingway was having lunch with friends and bet those gathered that he could write an entire story in six words. Once the money was wagered, he wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” on a napkin, passed it around the table, and gathered his winnings. Thus was born flash or sudden fiction—at least if you believe the tale which is, of course, contested by historical party-poopers.
Whatever the origin, there is now a keen website devoted to six-word stories: http://www.sixwordstories.net/. And it turns out that compelling crime stories can be told in just a half dozen words. So, to perhaps coin a term, here are some of my favorite Micro-Mysteries: Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht. —Margaret Atwood Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. —Joss Whedon Finding them entwined, Malcom shot both. —Rick George Time traveler convicted of postmeditated murder. —William Lucky break: pigs will eat anything. —Joe Wallace Now that I’m working on the sequel to POISONED JUSTICE which involves lots of words (about 100,000), I’ve found that playing with shorter—much, much shorter—forms of writing is a wonderful respite. I started with a few having entomological allusions such as: Explain week-old maggots in yesterday’s corpse. Bloodhounds took hours. Flies just minutes. Molester exterminated with a hollow-point pesticide. I was drawn to the moral ambiguity that noir provides and so tried craft a 6-word noir as a double challenge: I respected him enough to shoot. Rapist, pliers, testicles—justice or vengeance? She demanded justice. I ordered whiskey. And those last two got me to thinking about women and double entendres—staples of noir dialogue. I imagined a sneering femme fatale when I wrote: She admired his being well hanged. As long as I was on a noir roll, I figured the next task would be to condense a classic story into six words. And the result: Despised husband + “accident” = 2(indemnity)
Using mathematical contrivances felt a bit like cheating, although the technical “word count” is six. So, this approach got me to thinking about what else could be done with some literary legerdemain: Paranoia – empathy + razor = Heist ÷ 4 = 3 corpses B4 shooting your boyfriend RU/him QTπ?
Ok, that’s enough Micro-Mysteries for now. Back to writing MURDER ON THE FLY…