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Playing Around with a Story Line in Different Literary Genres
So all you passionate writers and passionate readers who may also be interested in literary genres.
Those of us with our pens flying, sometimes crawling across the page.
Those of us with our noses buried in a thriller or a Victorian novel of great length.
Here’s Writing Leap #1. Writing the SHORT-SHORT STORY. Try this.
Story line: My Grandmother Always Wore A Babushka
Or if this doesn’t resonate try
Play loose with the story line. Let it inspire you vaguely or otherwise.
The short-short story is a style of fictional literature where the narrative is very brief. The word count varies depending on who is establishing the boundaries, often somewhere between 300 and 1000 words.
Some are as short as six words. It’s been said, but not validated, that Ernest Hemingway wrote: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” and that he claimed it was among his best work.
Are you tempted to try it? Yes!
Remember, writers write. When it flows and when it doesn’t.
My short-short is a fictionalized account of something my mother, Mary, told me. Something that happened in real life.
Mary lifted one worn shoe onto the sagging step of her porch. Then the other. She fought the heaviness in her legs and the pumping fear in her heart. The two-family house, a shadowy gray presence, wailed, “Mama is still so angry with you.”
Mama might swoop down on her again with her big bulk and shake, shake, shake her.
Oh, she would be sure to speak to Mama in Russian, try to tell her about her day in school, her new tenth-grade teacher.
She hesitated before opening the front door with the oval window covered by embroidered curtains that Mama had made. She reached inside her shapeless coat (how she hated the old thing) to the spot under her sweater where her bra was. She touched the outline of the little gold bird on a chain. She had sewed it inside her bra. Mama could never see it again.
Mary closed her eyes and felt how David, her very own kind and wonderful boyfriend, he from the fancy side of town, had fastened it around her neck on the night of her sixteenth birthday. Mama had startled them in the parlor, announcing herself by the rustle of the bead fringe on the drapes that covered the open doorway in heavy velvet. Mama had sauntered right into the somber room heavy with dark horsehair furniture. She was barefoot. Her false teeth were out. Her gummy smile and mocking eyes had dared Mary to react. The bird necklace around Mary’s throat caught her mother’s eye.
“Go home,” she said to David in her heavy accent.
Mama turned and shuffled out. Mary felt the blood rush to her head, her face flush hot, her breathing practically stop. She couldn’t look at David.
Still rooted in front of the door on the front porch Mary smothered the memory of this recent parlor scene. She willed herself to close her eyes and bring up the memory of Papa, a picture that always prepared her for anything inside the house.
She was six. Papa gently caressed her cheek. Then he twirled her round and round and told her she was his gift from the angels in the United States of America who looked down on the small town where they lived. Love rushed through her as the memory slipped away ever so slowly. Papa disappeared back to heaven and she was sixteen.
Mary stepped inside the vestibule and looked at herself in the hall mirror. Her face was soft and her eyes were filled with the feeling of Papa’s tenderness.
“Mama, I’m home.”
Strains of an aria sung by Caruso filled the dining/sitting room. Mary smelled an odd combination of dill and something burnt coming from the kitchen beyond. Did Mama burn the pirozhkis?
Her mother nodded. The babushka with the roses was tied under her chin as always. She huddled over her cherished mahogany victrola, winding it up on the side. Mary watched the handle go round and round as the opera became louder.
“This music! The voice. So beautiful, so beautiful,” Mama said, always in Russian.
In the plain gray kitchen Mama’s golden brown pirozhkis cooled on a tray at the back of the old black stove. Mary sniffed. Then again. Ugh. Black, acrid-smelling smoke seeped around the edges of the round stovetop lid that kept the wood fire burning and the stove hot. Mary quickly picked up the lid with a potholder. Covering her mouth and nose she stared down through the smoke into the stove. Pieces of charred blue chiffon were squirming and burning, larger clumps of fabric disappearing under licks of orange flames, sequins holding out but still melting as Mary’s stomach lurched. She dropped the hot lid onto the stovetop.
It was her blue party dress her best friend Susie had lent her for the magical night of Mary’s first school dance. She was going with David.
Nausea crept into her heart. She had never been this frightened of Mama before. Her innocence flaked away forever like the burnt bits of her dress.
Linking the Arts
Books and Stories I Love
A really powerful short-short by Alice Walker
and an influence of mine
Words I Love
It says it all in three letters
Artwork I Love
Picasso uses just one line to evoke
a lot about this little bird
Happy Writing to all,
How did you do with the Short-Short?
Next post: Magical Realism
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