The spoken word

by Steve

First, you need to head over to The Outspoken Omphaloskeptic and take a listen to his tale, Vardman Grows Up. You back? Good. Then let’s begin. I was really quite taken with the story and it has made me think further about forms of fiction, particularly on the internet, and how they are presented.

Long-form fiction just doesn’t seem to work well on a computer monitor. The likes of the Kindle and Instapaper may well counteract this in future, but as it stands, I think authors are pretty much restricted to shorter works, as these are the easiest to digest and will appeal most to the short attention span of Mr or Mrs Internet User.

In fact, in terms of popularity, it appears that the shorter the better. “Flash fiction” seems one of the most popular and accessible forms of fiction for authors to present, and readers to consume, on the internet. However, the brevity of flash fiction makes much of it unsatisfying.

My theory is shorter fiction is easier to write, but a whole lot harder to write well. A budding author can dash off 300 words in no time and post it on their blog. But to get a coherent and satisfying story across in, say, 300 words is not easy. It takes a lot of skill, and a lot of craft.

So, the above story was a refreshing surprise. And I think the way it was presented was key.

I generally have difficulty concentrating on fiction via audio, be it a spoken word book or a radio play. But publishing flash fiction in audio form is inspired. Even I can pay attention for three or four minutes. Plus, the accent, tone and pacing of the reader of the piece helps ‘flesh out’ a story no end. In many ways it is a handy shortcut, so that right away we are within the story and have a feel for the place and characters.

I still suspect that it is not easy to do well. The writer now not only needs to write a strong story, they also need to read it in a compelling way. But, I do think it gives flash fiction an added depth, and seems a much better fit for the online sphere. If there isn’t one already, I imagine an audio literary journal or short story anthology would be a pretty interesting medium.

I’m looking forward to hearing more tales now…