First, we’ll read through the text — a micro-fiction of 150 words

(the word limit for this particular venue)

originally published online at The-Phone-Book.com


Three Days of Mourning


On the third day the old man took down a haunch of cooked beef hanging from the cabin's ceiling. The blade of his knife was razor-thin and passed through the meat without resistance. He was sixty years old and in mourning for his wife whose body still lay on the bed. He had been drinking now for three days without sleep and now he wanted to eat. He set himself a place at the table. He ate slowly, chewing each bite twenty times. The meat tasted dry and salty. As he ate he stared straight ahead at the stone fireplace which took up one wall. When he finished he would fetch a shovel and go to work. His wife had died peacefully in her sleep, and he imagined that was not a hard way to go. When his time came he believed very little effort would be necessary.

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Now let’s examine the anatomy of this piece. The text consists of eleven sentences, each performing a small structural task. Though each sentence doesn’t do much, in combination they work towards producing a small emotional effect.



1) On the third day the old man took down a haunch of cooked beef hanging from the cabin's ceiling.

Introduction of Time, Character, Place, and Main Prop -- the "haunch of cooked beef."


2)The blade of his knife was razor-thin and passed through the meat without resistance.

Character in action with Main Prop.



3) He was sixty years old and in mourning for his wife whose body still lay on the bed.

Physical and mental characteristics, and present situation.


4) He had been drinking now for three days without sleep and now he wanted to eat.

Character's reaction to event, and proposed goal.



5) He set himself a place at the table.

Character in action, moving toward goal



6) He ate slowly, chewing each bite twenty times.

Character in action with Main Prop.



7) The meat tasted dry and salty.

Character's sensory reaction to Main Prop.



8) As he ate he stared straight ahead at the stone fireplace which took up one wall.

Character's reflective delay over a short passage of time..



9) When he finished he would fetch a shovel and go to work.

Character's proposed new goal after reflection.



10) His wife had died peacefully in her sleep, and he imagined that was not a hard way to go.

Character's reflection revealed.



11) When his time came he believed very little effort would be necessary.

Character's emotional response, in summary, understated.



*




Anatomy of a MicroFiction
by Bob Thurber

This educational resource may be copied and freely distributed to students but may not be republished in book form without the authors written consent.

(c) 2008, Bob Thurber


Now you write one. Use as many words (or as few) as you need to accomplish your emotional effect, though try to keep the text under 300 words. This effect should 'play out' on you, the initial reader/editor. So put the piece away for a few hours or a few days. Then read it through slowly. Read it out loud. Consider each word and phrase. Weigh your modifiers. Eliminate all those you can do without. Attempt to get two sentences to do the work of one. Perform this task once or twice a day for a week. Don’t cheat. And keep old drafts in case you work the life out of the piece. The goal is to work the life into it. So let the story breathe. Let the text dictate its rhythm, its pace, its “feel.”


If you need some help, you can contact me through this site; send the piece to me with any specific questions. I’ll reply as soon as I can. Best wishes. -  BT


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Looking for more examples of micro-fiction?


Here are Ten Small Fictions published by Turnrow, and later used as examples for a creative writing class. 

Fifty word Stories


more links coming...



“I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”

— Isak Dinesen