Short Stories vs. Blogs

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Here’s an interesting phenomenon. I haven’t heard it spoken of yet. What used to be called a short story is now being called a “short short story.” Any shorter than 1500 words and it’s now “flash fiction.” Those rare things we call short stories seem to be pushing the old novella length, and novellas are a bit longer too. And this is to say nothing of the Harry Potter trend. That new book is how long?

And I guess I just find this a little strange, given the almost unassailable common wisdom that attention spans are shortening, and national literacy is declining. Maybe it’s the “super-size-me” American thing. We just don’t want it unless it hangs out of the parking space an extra few feet.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that even though I write fiction, sometimes I want to share a message. that won’t interfere with my characters and their situations. When that impulse strikes, I have a blog. And I think that’s a good thing.

But there’s a tendency in the blogosphere for people to spout opinions. It seems like the Internet can create arguments out of a simple difference in definition of terms. “What do you mean by that, really?”

I know most blogs aren’t the best use of time. Many are intentionally divisive rather than unifying, and have more in common with the hedonistic, pleasure-seeking wish-fulfillment as this super-sized American dream gospel. Everyone gets to have a blog and an opinion. But deep down we know enjoying life requires striving after that deeper pleasure, the kind that doesn’t just come from being recognized, the kind born of difficult research. Great pain creates space for great joy. It’s an emotional journey to enjoyment. And more amazing than causing division and seeking our fortunes is finding new and different people from all over the world, and the similarities we all hold.

A reason I like short stories better than most the blogs out there is that stories are still the best at diffusing our differences of perspective and showing how universal our experiences really are. There’s a thought of Eugene Peterson’s that applies here. Jesus often answered direct questions from the Pharisees with a short story—“flash fiction,” if you will. When they’d ask Him for a definition of a particular word, intending to pin him into a semantic corner, He’d answer with, “There once was a man with two sons….” He knew that stories, while maybe still divisive, speak to our similarities and ultimately, subversively, unite us. And the short ones are often just enough to set that ticking time bomb in you before you’re on to the next thing.

So, my fellow writers, consider the power you wield today as you’re striving to rightly divide the word of truth on the page. And remember the bigger picture of unifying readers.

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6 thoughts on “Short Stories vs. Blogs”

  1. So, I powered up my computer, and the little bloglines icon said, “doink,” and a red flower, or starburst, or whatever that red thing is, popped up on the blue B. I clicked it and discovered a variety of blogs had updated. But which one do you think I read first? Come on, guess. No peeking ahead.
    (instead of Jeopardy music, insert your favorite 80s tune here, and keep inserting it until it’s stuck in your head for the rest of the day)
    Yours, of course.
    I’ve missed your frank, logical, yet eloquent voice, Mick. Thanks for these excellent thoughts. And don’t stay gone so long next time, k? The fans get cranky. :)

  2. yes. yes. and yes. but i go on too long.
    the trouble with stories is, they may not come to your conclusion the way a straight answer will (although then they may not come to your conclusion but twice as fast, eh?)
    i guess it is up to God to sort out the details.
    blessings,
    suz

  3. Ah, excellent mind gum. Good to chew on for the rest of the afternoon. Will probably distract me from putting forth any effort to meet my next deadline. I think I am glad of the intrusion, though. Blogs do that, you know. Distract you from what you really should be writing. But yours is the only that feels like it is exercise not entertainment.
    Cheers,
    Susan :)

  4. Great thoughts, Mick. I love blogs for my little short ideas. I did two “in the eyes of” blogs. One from Mary’s POV as Jesus carried the cross, one from Peter’s POV after Jesus rose again.
    Yet, I think Jesus told parables to the Pharisees to mess with them. Remember, they never understood what He was saying. He did it because He knew they were arrogant and did not really “see.”
    In John 7:37, Jesus stands and says, “Come to me. Know me as the scriptures say.” Yet the religious leaders of His day, who claimed to know the scriptures and have wisdom, did NOT recognize Jesus to be the One they longed for.
    So, flash fiction can be used to unify, or to divide. But sometimes dividing causes unity. If that makes sense….
    Rachel

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