There are certain forms of short story that present facts mixed with rather preposterous circumstances or situations. The net result is a rather humorous story, especially if the reader quickly catches on to its underlying farcical nature. Like most all short stories, the ending is intended to be a surprise. Further, the ending should amuse, typically by playing on an idiom or using a bastardized twist to a well-known phrase or bromide. I call these Tongue-In-Cheek, or TIC, short stories. I do so because their only reason for being is to insight laughter (maybe even guffaws for the exceptionally good one). These types of stories seem to be especially common in the science fiction genre. I’ve observed over the years that many SF fans have a dry sense of humor, so I suppose it all fits.
I recently read one of these stories which is what prompted this post. The story differs from my description above in one notable way: it was a novelette rather than a short story. Being of longer length I found myself disappointed in the ending. Not that the ending lacked humor. It would have been just fine had the story been half as long or less. In my opinion, a novelette is too long a piece for a TIC story. Why? Because when I put the kind of time needed into reading a novelette I’m looking for something more than just a punch line at the end.
The author is a professional and did a great job of using what I would describe as an “old English” style narrative that seemed to fit another time and place (supposedly far in the future). I would also say the story was as much fantasy as it was what I consider SF.
Many publications still pay based on word count. Maybe the author got more money for his efforts, but for sure he got no guffaws from me. Not even a heart-felt chuckle.
In my most recent post (September 29, 2017) I introduced the concept of FICWA (Fiction Inline Commentary Writing Approach). My plan was to continue posting on this method as I demonstrate how it can be used. Unfortunately, the FICWA write-up requires several MSWord features, primarily line numbering, that WordPress does not support. In order to get my Sept. 29 post loaded into my blog I used a very cumbersome and time-consuming work-around. Consequently, I’ve decided that I will develop a separate booklet for the FICWA material rather than try to post it. Once I’m far enough along in writing the booklet I’ll have a downloadable version available.
Exploring fiction writing methods has been a major interest of mine since I took my first fiction writing seminar years ago. I’ve read many of the recommended books on the subject and I still feel there is much useful research to be done. Every writer tries different approaches as they develop their skills and discover what things work best for them. During one writing seminar I attended the speaker made a profound observation. Although he was primarily a science fiction author, he stated that, “All fiction books are mysteries.” I immediately understood what he was getting at; we read stories to find out what happens. If we knew what happened our motivation for reading the story would diminish.
A very popular storytelling technique these days is to start by showing a glimpse of the ending scene of the story and then go back to the beginning. I say a glimpse because enough of the ending is shown to tantalize us and pique our interest, but no so much as to give away the ending. In other words, the mystery is still there to goad us into doing the reading.
My point is that mysteries naturally lead to questions like: who did it, or what happened, or who won, or when or where did an event take place, or just plain why? The core concept of FICWA revolves around the questions the story generates and the answers it gives. I’m thinking that’s key to it all.