3 Line Story

May 3rd, 2009 by adminadam in prose

I once tried to write a short story. It was a three-line dialog about a trip a long time ago that these two dudes went on. It went something like this:

“19 miles to midnight.”
“What?”
“Ok, 18.8.”

The only problem was it was too long. I needed a short story, and fast. Two lines would have been nice, but I couldn’t compact the interaction into such a small dialectal space. Surely I had to reverse my thinking and add a line. So I tried it with four:

“How much further, Jim?”
“19 miles.”
“19 miles to midnight…”
“Well, 18.8 to be exact.”

Unfortunately, it lacked a convincing conclusion. How would the story end? Would the passenger fall silent in satisfaction at the respecified 18.8-mile reply, or would there take place some kind of conflict at that? A discreet critique of Jim’s need to speak accurately perhaps? It certainly needed something — either a resolution or dissolution; at this point it was exceedingly flat. But nothing was coming to me…

At some point about a week later on it struck me to limit myself to three lines, as I had originally intended to do, but to sneak in a whole new character as well. So then I had Jim, the driver, the curious cat (to be known as ‘Frederíco’), and another whom I called ‘the old author’, a retired novelist. It went a little something like this:

“Man, I bet it would take you a month if you were gonna hike it.”, said Frederíco, trying with false appreciation to mask what was really impatience.
Jim gave a flat driver’s-grunt and laid out his ETA: “19 more miles to midnight, folks.”
The old author gazed out at the dim rolling dunes and chimed in to keep everyone aware of the stars that would spin and said: “Look!”

At least now the readers could grin knowing that: even outside of his books can the retired novelist write a new fact. And so, from the muse, it was this story I took.

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