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Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Flash Fiction - A Peek at the Paranormal

My fifty-word story "Buyer Beware" is now appearing in the journal 50-to-1. It wasn't always fifty words long, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to demonstrate its evolution by trimming. You can judge for yourself which version is most effective.

1. I started with inspiration and a lot of random fleshed-out parts:

Our first night in the house, the great grandfather of the previous owners sat down to dinner with us. After grace, he just sort of floated into one of the empty chairs, between Sylvia and Reynold, and patiently awaited his portion of store-bought roast beef. I watched him closely while the others tried to ignore his wafting essence and cold emanations. Although he seemed miffed that no one set a plate in front of him, he never made a sound. He didn’t move until we had Indian takeout for lunch a week later. He expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he distinctly resembled an ancient cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is definitely not infested with spiders.

2. I cut it to six sentences for the journal of that name, which rejected it:

Our first night in the house, the great grandfather of the previous owners sat down to dinner with us. After grace, he just sort of floated into one of the empty chairs, all wafting essence and cold emanations, and seemed miffed that no one set a plate in front of him. He didn’t move until we had Indian takeout for lunch a week later. He expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he distinctly resembled an ancient cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is definitely not infested with spiders.

3. Shopping around for a journal, and finally with the goal of making it conform to 50-to-1's requirements, I kept shaving:

Our first night in the house, the previous owners’ grandfather sat down to dinner with us. He floated into one of the empty chairs and awaited his portion. I watched him while the others ignored his wafting essence and cold emanations. Afterwards, he expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he resembled a cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is not infested with spiders. 

4. And you can read the latest, trimmest, published, version here.

It took me about a year to make these changes. Cutting is probably the toughest way to edit.

As you can see, it was a long and winding road for this little piece, which couldn't seem to find a home until the road was short and straight. Which version do you prefer?

Thanks for celebrating with me!