Friday, August 27, 2010

Short attention span?

For years articles have talked about how young people have a very short attention span -- supposedly due to TV, computers, etc. I've long suspected the short attention span is that of bored and essentially lazy movie, TV producers, and book editors. Harry Potter books are pretty darned long, The Lord of the Rings is too, so are a lot of Stephen King books, a lot of fantasy and sci-fi multi-volume stories.

This truth or myth, whichever it actually is, has definitely invaded the world of senior writing opportunities. I have recently found two places that solicit stories by and for people over 60 -- BUT one wants pieces no more than 1000 words and the other limits it to 750 words. Why? I don't believe it is for the readers' sake; I think it is laziness on the editors' part. I love words, I love stories, I love full and interesting characterization, vivid description, complex stories. None of those attributes are possible in 1000 words. The so-called "flash fiction" that some serious literary journals solicit is utterly boring except in the cases where it is actually a prose poem with the density of lanugage and meaning of a poem, not a short story. And very few people are capable of writing truly fine prose poems, just as very few poets can write fine haiku.

If I write a 2500 word short story [and I generally do] I would eviscerate the characters, turn settings into stereotype and washout most of the vivid details. I don't want to read or write that kind of short story. Most of mine will remain on my hard drive with hard copies shared with only a very close friends.


Vicki Lane said...

I agree! I like long stories -- no Reader's Digest pablum for me.

Kass said...

I love words and stories too. Maybe the reason for the 1000 word limit is a diminished (in more than one way) demographic audience.