Web Log Entry #0080, Monday, July 28, 2003: Day 252
Anchorage Sunrise: 5:20am Sunset: 10:50pm High Temp: 62° Low Temp: 54°
My picture appeared in the Anchorage Daily News again today. That's twice in the last eight months. If I appeared in the Oregonian with such frequency, I'd have 45 newspaper pictures on my refrigerator. I guess everybody here appears in the Anchorage Daily News eventually. Last week they had a photo spread of People Who Haven't Appeared In the Paper For Six Months. There were only ten pictures. This IS Alaska.
Last time, I was on a date (albeit a very brief one) with a flight attendant. In this one, I look grumpy. Which I was. Not because my picture was being taken; I didn't mind that (although I might have asked the photographer to wait until the balding man behind me wasn't gazing with interest at the back of my neck (or at least giving the appearance of doing so), but I had no idea, since I was looking forward). I was at the reading of the Short Short Story winners, and I was not pleased. Okay, I didn't win, and that was PART of why I was annoyed, but hear me out. If the winners had submitted better short stories than mine, I'd be gracious in defeat. Most of the winning entries weren't short stories, and that's what bugged me.
You may wonder how this could be. The problem lies in the definition of a "story." I consider a story narrative prose with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning defines the opening situation, establishing character and conflict. The middle contains description that reveals character and action that drives the plot forward. The end contains the resolution of the conflict, either success or failure, and any subsequent falling action. Without these components, a chunk of prose isn't a story. If it's just a description of a situation, it's a vignette. If it describes a situation and action but no completion, it's a scene (and probably part of a larger story). If it describes a person through physical, emotional, or historical details, it's a character study. If it's a collection of images, thoughts, and feelings around a theme, it's an unrhyming poem. (I admit that not everyone may share these definitions, but I find them useful, and they support my complaints, so I'll use them.) These are all perfectly valid forms, they're just not stories. The challenge of creating a story with only 200 words, or even 25 words, is to create a complete, but miniature, story.
So I was grumpy because the winning entries were mostly vignettes and character descriptions. A few were actual short stories, but I still liked mine better. Sour grapes? Maybe. I felt like I entered a carefully-built model airplane in a model-building contest, and the winners entered photographs of airplanes. It occurred to me that the unstated requirements for this contest were to write something Alaska-oriented and grim with evocative imagery, but maybe there was more than that. I'm not SAYING that one had to sleep with the judges, I'm just NOTING that I DIDN'T sleep with any of them, and I didn't win. Coincidence? Maybe I can drop hints of unsubstantiated scandal to the Anchorage Daily News, and get my picture in the paper again...
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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols