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In 55 Fiction, the Titles are Freebies
July 11, 2011 8:14 AM   Subscribe

55 Fiction is a form of microfiction with a few rules, including a limitation to 55 words. Started as contest in a local San Luis Obispo, California alt-weekly paper in 1987, the contest has since been replicated elsewhere, including two related books (Google books previews) and two unrelated websites. The latest contest is now done.

55 Fiction: The Addendum

* This year's winners, with graphics (Flash interface)
* 2010 winners
* 2009 winners
* 2008 winners
* 2007 winners
* 2006 winners
* 2005 winners
posted by filthy light thief (33 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are really great, thanks for the post!
posted by slimepuppy at 8:20 AM on July 11, 2011


I started reading these with high hopes, but, like the Bulwyr-Lytton contest entries before them, too many are trying to be cute or funny to have the taste of real creativity. However, it occurs to me that looking down on people who are making an effort diminishes them without elevating me. So I desist.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust - you realize your comment is 54 words long? I recommend that you submit it for the next contest. Then you have made an effort.
posted by philip-random at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of Anacrusis.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:41 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came in here to point to Anacrusis, but am pleased to see that someone beat me to it.
posted by immlass at 8:59 AM on July 11, 2011


Hemingway could do it in 6 words. And better.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2011


I should splain that I wrote a guest story for Anacrusis so I link there with ulterior motive.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:06 AM on July 11, 2011


GenjiandProust - you realize your comment is 54 words long?

I choose, as part of my artistic statement, to believe that Bulwer-Lytton is two words rather than one.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:08 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What interesting stories! How utterly utterly charming! I love well-made micro-fiction as a thought experiment or formal exercise. You can arrive at different ways of approaching a story, sometimes from the strangest angles. It's very fun.

If this thread doesn't turn into a 55 word story competition I will be very disappointed, thought The Whelk.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adding Very Short Story on Twitter to the "related" list. I think this guy is really good.
posted by Brainy at 9:10 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with constraining yourself to 55 words is not, as you might think, the limitations of space. At least not really. The problem is that that number hangs over you, looking down on you, pressing onto the back of your head. All you can think of is 55, 55, 55. You consider omitting articles.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:13 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Initially, GenjiandProust planned to admonish his colleagues that they needed both a conflict and a resolution to qualify as an attempt. Then he was ashamed at his narrow view and roundabout approach to the problem (exacerbated by his use of the third person). So he eschews this faulty thinking and cries “let 55 words contend!”
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2011


There are different ways to go about writing a short story within the confines of the 55 Fiction criteria. I prefer to start with an idea, and just get typing. Sometimes my hands cramp up, my fingers freeze above the keys, and I am unsure if I can continue. But then, I am free. Free!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:50 AM on July 11, 2011


Note: word editing software is handy, especially when there is a word count tallied on-screen. I sometimes lose count and have to start over.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2011


Some of these are wonderful. Some of these also demonstrate that it is possible to overwrite even a 55-word story.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2011


From the 1940s:

I said, "no." He said "please."
I said, "no." He said, "why?"
I said, "no." He said, "try."
He said, "Now?" I said, "Well. . . "
He said, "Ah, this is swell,
"You'll never know how much it will mean."
So at last, I confess, I said, "Yes, yes, yes!"
That's how I subscribed to Liberty magazine.
posted by Herodios at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2011


The Anacrusis link had a few good stories. The 55-word stories, though, by design (according to the rules of the game on the Wikipedia link), are devoid of any literary merit. They fall more into the category of wordplay or puzzle. No points for interesting characters, settings or insight into the human condition. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but they don't have much in common with flash fiction, sudden fiction, short short stories, or whatever you want to call very short pieces that have their origins in the literary world rather than a newspaper contest.

I feel like Harold Bloom, Department of Canon Admissions, all of the sudden. I think I'll take a shower.
posted by kozad at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2011


filthy light thief: I prefer to start with an idea, and just get typing. Sometimes my hands cramp up, my fingers freeze above the keys, and I am unsure if I can continue. But then, I am free. Free!


Entry from 2010: Lover’s Quarrel

“Well, do something,” I said.

“You do something,” came the reply.

“But I always do something, and frankly, tonight I’m tired. Why can’t you just this once take the lead?”

“I swear, when will you get it?” came the response. “And you call yourself a writer?”

I snapped back, “And you call yourself a keyboard?”
posted by Herodios at 10:07 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are fun. I was inspired to rework some shorter things I had lying around to fit the 55 word rule, and enter them. By next year I will have completely forgotten about all of this, so I won't feel bad at not being selected. So, before I become a famous published author, I give you:

----------

Nothing Got Sent Anywhere

You dreamed you were a prayer flag, and everyone believed that your fluttering prayer got sent up to heaven. But you frayed in the wind, and your prayer faded and bleached, and your threads blew away, until you became a part of the world all around, which you already were, and nothing got sent anywhere.

----------

Eames

The Eames lounge chair sees, one block away, an Eames ottoman. She sees him as well, and their hearts race together. But closer, he realizes she is not a genuine Eames at all, but an Ikea knockoff. At the last possible moment he hurries away, leaving the inexpensive Scandinavian footrest to wonder what went wrong.

----------

Amgnosis

"What does the bracelet say, Don?"

"Well it says my name, of course. Don Barron."

"Anything else?"

"It says... 'memory loss.' Why would it say that?"

The doctor smiled at me, kinda sadly. There was something familiar about this young man.

"I bet we'll get along great, Doctor...?"

"Barron."

"Right. Hey, same name as me!"
posted by rusty at 10:08 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The old lady carried a saucer of milk into the garden and placed it gently on the path.

"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!"
posted by ZsigE at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


TODAY

I watched my girlfriend play Dance Central on the Xbox today. It made me feel like there was more I could be doing with my life, something creative.

I got up to get another beer out of the fridge. People are inspired by beer constantly. But was this time time for the “Ode to Sam Adams?”.
posted by josher71 at 10:43 AM on July 11, 2011


LATER TODAY

Ode to Lowenbrau seemed to come to me much quicker. I went with it even though people are supposed to go with their first impulses. My first impulse is always not to do anything at all, ever, so in my case this conventional wisdom is flawed.

“Lowenbrau, like wonderful milk from a Teutonic cow...”.
posted by josher71 at 10:49 AM on July 11, 2011


Of all the cool things here in San Luis Obispo that I have failed to participate in since moving here, the "55 Fiction" is one of the coolest. I don't know why I haven't tried my hand at this, maybe it was just too scary given my tendency for wordiness that was holding me back.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:12 AM on July 11, 2011


- A limit of 55 words allows you to achieve just two effects, pathos or humour, reflected Tom, as he began typing a comment he would soon post on the popular community weblog MetaFilter, feeling keenly the absence of Steve, his white-muzzled Labrador, who used to bring him the newspaper and tell the best jokes.
posted by tigrefacile at 11:46 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: The problem with constraining yourself to 55 words is not, as you might think, the limitations of space. At least not really. The problem is that that number hangs over you, looking down on you, pressing onto the back of your head. All you can think of is 55, 55, 55. You consider omitting articles.

While this isn't the first one in the thread, it is the first one that slipped right by at first, then made me consider it again, hence the following soliloquy: "Hmm-- that's quite a good point. --Hey... wait a minute. Is... is that a--? Wait.. Did they--? Could that have--?

***

Ahhh! Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!"
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:18 PM on July 11, 2011


Perhaps a slightly less embarrassing problem when trying to write a story consisting only of 55 words is that of style. The urge to compress, to pare down, is nigh irresistible. Be on the lookout for strained syntax, for $12 words employed in a strained effort at concision. Brevity is difficult, but grace is worse.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:26 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also some nice 55 word stories at Bird and Moon.
And pretty pictures too.
posted by robotot at 3:06 PM on July 11, 2011


Okay, so why so many comic pieces here and so few in full novel form?

(Partially I suppose because it's hard to keep up the pace for that long, but even so....)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:03 PM on July 11, 2011


I'll just leave this here.
posted by valrus at 6:10 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quite a few of the stories in the linked competition (and, sorry to say it, some of the comments in this thread) feel like things that have been written for a word count competition: they’re slightly over filled, using extra, redundant words to pad the count up to the target, in this case 55. Marshmallow.
posted by logopetria at 11:52 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It’s like, watching a gymnast somersault across the performance area in a few bounds is impressive, as long as they land on the target they’re aiming for. If they do some somersaults, land a few feet short, and then have to scamper a few little steps over to the target, that somewhat spoils the effect.
posted by logopetria at 11:55 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Constraint's often friend to creativity, it seems. There's 5-Second Films, Fat Wreck Chords' Short Music For Short People, Michael Thaler's Le Train de Nulle Part (a novel with no verbs), Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby (a novel written without the use of the letter 'E'), and George Perec's A Void (also no 'E'). Circus peanut.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:10 PM on July 12, 2011


Begin with an obvious lie. "I Understand." The rest is easy, a gathering of angels wearing Nikes. They have a message for mankind. The Lemmings were pushed. Follow the money. It leads to the Magic Kingdom. And so on. Why does everything suck? Follow the money. Who has all the power? Follow the fucking money.
posted by philip-random at 3:08 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


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