People have been enjoying the notion of the micro-mystery that I introduced in my last blog posting, so I’m announcing a contest for anyone to email their six-word mysteries to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). A panel of distinguished writers will select the winners who will receive copies of full-length mysteries (and of course, one of the prizes will be a signed copy of POISONED JUSTICE). Entries will be accepted for six weeks and the winners will be featured on this website.
You might well ask whether writing with such brevity just a gimmick. Absolutely not! I delve into the world of micro-mysteries because of three reasons. First, some writers relish the paragraph, others revel in the sentence, and I adore the word. Nothing focuses one’s attention on this atom of writing as does the short form. Next, I love the way in which a good micro-story functions like a joke. That is, there’s a wonderful “Aha!” moment when the reader sees the richness that emerges from the paucity of language. Finally, the writer of a six-word story must trust the intelligence and evoke the imagination of the reader to create a moment—even an entire narrative—through the strategic use of what is not said. Knowing what to leave unspoken is a great challenge for a writer, and the short-form allows one to practice the art of literary Gestalt.
I contend that the micro-mystery provides the Four D’s: discipline, distillation, diversion, and danger. In brief, discipline entails the imposition of constraints—and, ironically, constraints catalyze creativity. Distillation is a way of reading or watching deeply the work of another artist—and then extracting the essence of the story into a half-dozen words: Despised husband + “accident” = 2(indemnity). Diversion refers to the playful and subversive act of crafting a story while standing in line, sitting on an airplane, or attending a dull meeting. Danger alludes to the realization that spending years writing a failed novel is dreadful, while spending 15 minutes on a six-word mystery that just won’t work is hardly tragic.
So give it try. Really. There’s so little to lose and so much pleasure to gain. And to give you a kick start here are a couple of my own, darkly funny stories from the category of Crime and PUNishment.
Infidelity ended with pairing knife. Poetic.
Garage murder: evidently he was exhausted.