No-drama Llama

One of the most difficult challenges in writing for the Cafe is to come up with a monthly piece of short fiction. A thousand words with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is a writing skill I’ve wanted to gain, and I figured with the same discipline, work, and a lot of words on the page I’d figure out this short story stuff the same way I figured out how to win Nanowrimo every year I’ve participated.

Sometimes it works. I’ve produced some pieces, published here at the Cafe, that I’m rather proud of. It wasn’t exactly easy, but I got in the zone, found a groove, and mixed metaphors like a boss and within a few hours I had something worth sharing with the world.

But usually I got nothing.

I’ve tried starting with prompts, with themes, with characters and situations and conflicts and a firm deadline. I can brainstorm, free write, take long walks and showers, make tripartate lists describing everything I can think of. But I can rarely find a character, a goal, obstacles to overcome, and a solution that fit within a thousand words. Mostly I can’t find an easy source of conflict, and if I try to force one for the sake of the story, it breaks the logic of the world. And, to misquote Elizabeth Bennett, I am unwilling to speak unless I expect to say something that will amaze the entire room.

I have always told myself private stories to stave off boredom. But I realize all those stories have been at least novel-length. The characters aren’t dealing with short-term crises, they’re dealing with the problem of finding meaning within a life that can, in some circumstances, span centuries.

Perhaps this reflects my own life, one I’ve managed to constructed to be remarkably free of drama. While some might bemoan my lack of passionate affairs, there also aren’t any fights, misunderstandings, abuse, or many sudden and traumatic losses. My life is pretty placid; possibly even boring, and I like it that way. Drama, to me, is a distraction.

This perhaps explains why I’m not a big fan of chick-lit and romance. If everybody in those books would use their words and take one another seriously, well, the book would be a lot shorter.

I guess that’s what they mean when they say to write what you know. Write your own journey. It’ll take as many words as it takes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.