Monday, October 19, 2015

DIGITAL FICTION – “ULTRA-SHORT” STORIES

DIGITAL FICTION – “ULTRA-SHORT” STORIES
Musings on the New Genre of Literature – “Blog Fiction”
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Short Fiction (or a Short Story) is a piece of writing that you can read in “one sitting”.

The duration of “one sitting” is becoming shorter and shorter – as we become busier and busier.

In the earlier days – “one sitting” could extend to an entire leisurely afternoon of 3 to 4 hours – and a piece of fiction as long as 10,000 words would qualify as a “short” story.

However – as we “progressed” – spans of leisure decreased – and “one sitting” would be, say, just one hour – so the ideal length of short stories came down to around 3000 words.

Later – as spans of attention further decreased due to the intervention of technology in our lives – and people had other sources of entertainment besides reading (especially TV) – the typical length of a short story came down to around 1000 words.

Now – with digital media replacing the print media – people read on screens rather than on paper – so most writers publish their short fiction on blogs rather than magazines – and spans of attention have become so less – that you have to finish your story in 500 words.

In a nutshell – you have to write “Flash Fiction” – or better still – “Ultra-Short” Fiction.

My favourite writer of “ultra-short” fiction is “Banaphool” (Dr. Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay).

Like Anton Chekhov – Dr. Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay (1899-1979) was a doctor – who adopted the pseudonym Banaphool (meaning “wild-flower” in Bengali).

Banaphool excelled in the genre of “ultra-short” fiction in Bengali literature and his inimitable “short short stories” are a treat to read. .

Of course – if you can read Bengali – you can read the original stories – and – for those – like me - who cannot read Bengali – English Translations of Banaphool’s stories are available in various anthologies – and maybe – these stories are available on the internet for online reading too.

So – if you are interested in writing “Blog Fiction” – I suggest you read a few stories of Banaphool – and I would recommend 3 anthologies of Banaphool Stories:

1. NEEM TREE (A Bouquet Of Short Stories By Banaphool) Translated by Dipannita Datta (Rupa, 2004)

2. Wildfire and Other Stories (Seagull, 1999)

3. What Really Happened (Banaphool Stories Translated by Arunava Sinha) (Penguin, 2010)

And now – let me practice what I have preached – and try to write some “ultra-short” stories in my blog.

I have to curb my tendency to write prolix long-winded prose – and learn brevity – because – that is what most of my readers want me to do.

In fact – a classmate of mine told me that he reads my blog posts on his ‘smartphone’ while travelling to work – and his maximum “span of attention” is around 15 minutes.

So – I have to ensure that my short stories can be read in 10 or 15 minutes.

And – so should you.

Happy Writing – Happy Blogging

VIKRAM KARVE
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