Saturday, February 13, 2016

BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF WIT



THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 13, 2016



According to Shakespeare, “brevity is the soul of wit.” It’s not entirely clear what the bard meant when he said these few words, but Shakespeare is worth paying attention to for the glory of his words and for his astute insight into the human heart. “Wit,” in Shakespeare’s day, meant intelligence. Nowadays “wit” usually refers to a sense of humor. We can be sure Shakespeare wasn’t giving advice to stand-up comics on how to deliver one-liners. I think he just meant: impart your wisdom to others in as few words as possible, lest you loose their attention.

Ironically, Shakespeare gives us this brief nugget of wisdom by way of Polonius, the chief advisor to King Claudius in Hamlet. Polonius is a pompous windbag, whose speeches are rambling, trite, redundant, and boring, displaying anything but brevity and burying wit in a muddle of contradictions.

But the message got through, somehow. Polonius was a fool, but Shakespeare was not. Shakespeare was right: Wit, whether wisdom or comedy, is best delivered in as few words as possible.

Look who’s talking. It took me 158 words to get to the point, which I expressed in fourteen words. Shakespeare said it in six.

Brevity serves writers. That’s why I’m such a fan of the 99-word story. They’re fun to read, and even more fun to write. You may not come up with long-lasting literature in your short, short exercises, but you’ll have fun finding out how many words can be cut from your stories, and how so often trimming away the unnecessary words strengthens and improves what’s left.

Check out the following fourteen romance stories. You’ll see what I mean.

And, speaking of romance, be sure to check out the promotion for When I Reach You, Dean Olson’s new collection of poems celebrating love.

Also, take note of the call for 99-word stories for March. The prompt is appropriate for that windy month.




Fourteen Brief Romances


MY FIRST AMOUR
by Lee Tyler

He was a visiting writer from New York. Editor of a classy magazine. I was flattered when he invited me to join him for dinner across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a pleasant evening; a great meal, easy conversation.
He drove me home, still the perfect gentleman. But then, at my door, instead of the expected peck on my cheek, he grabbed me. Forced my prim lips open. Thrust his tongue inside. It was one of those kisses that murmur ‘Let’s get lost.’
What an idiot I’d have been not to let him in.
And we did it.

•••

WHERE THE FANTASY ENDS
by Debra L. Benigno

Beware of the quiet ones.
She knew that’s how others saw her. Nondescript, mousy, quiet.
She laughed as friends compared her to a loaf of white bread.
“You never notice she’s around, but she’s always there when you need her.”
White bread my foot.
Candles, wine, satin ribbons and a magician’s special wand lay waiting on her nightstand.
She greets her lover with a kiss.
It was one of those kisses that murmur, “Let’s get lost…”
“Tonight we play Magician and Mystery Lady.”
He kisses her again, removes her black veil, ties her wrists, and together, they get lost.

•••

ONE NIGHT’S STAND
by Ambrose Rackham

Princess Estelle slipped out to the terrace to escape the orchestra and the fortune-hunting fops and dandies who had filled her dance card.
She stood in the moonlight, longing for romance. Something earthy.
Out of the shadows stepped Jake, the hired hand. He kissed her roughly and murmured, “Let’s get lost.”
“Let’s!” Hand in hand they ran to his Spartan, smelly room over the stables. A fine, earthy place to learn the secrets of romance.
The next morning, after they dressed, Jake grinned and said, “Let’s marry, and we’ll live together in the palace.”
“What?”
“Let’s—”
“Get lost!”

•••

PARKING INTERRUPTUS
by Madelyn Lorber

Circa 1950’s. Me and my “Funny Valentine” were parked by the bay. Back then we called it watching submarine races, making out, or necking.
I knew from past successes I was a great kisser. I knew it just then because whatever I was doing was working. It was one of those kisses that murmur… all the way. I was aroused and I wasn’t the only one.
The trouble is, this girl was different. She had those qualities I had set aside for that some-day, way-in-the future-wife/mother-of-my-children material.
I started the car.

•••

BEST FRIEND’S BROTHER
by Sheri Humphreys

Mark’s hand wrapped around my arm and pulled until our jackets brushed. “It’s been a while.” One corner of his mouth twitched. “Too long.”
“Since your sister’s birthday three years ago.”
He drew me closer, his brown eyes smiling.
It was supposed to be a social, nice-to-see-you kiss. One of those closed-mouth, unemotional, lips pursed, polite busses. Only Mark never did the expected.
His lips parted, moved against mine. Trailed across my cheek, leaving tingles behind. It was a kiss that murmured, let’s get lost . . .
Finally. After only ten years. My lips darted back and answered.

•••

LOST AND FOUND
By Cora Ramos

“Let’s try that path.”
I was dubious. It was the third Y in the path we’d taken and I was already confused. “I’m afraid we’re lost.”
He stopped and put his backpack down. With both hands on my shoulders, he looked into my eyes. “So let’s get lost. What’s the worst that could happen?”
After resisting his advances for months, I knew he was no longer talking about our hike.
“Getting lost might be a good thing,” he murmured while leaning in for a kiss, searching my eyes.
I finally accepted and returned his kiss. I’d been found.

•••

JALEN’S LUCKY DAY
by Jerry Giammatteo

It was the kind of party Jalen hated. He knew almost nobody, having been coaxed into coming by his frat brothers. He was the wallflower in the frat: shy and socially awkward.
A young lady started a conversation by wishing Jalen a Happy Valentine’s Day. Her name was Janine and she stayed by his side. Jalen was nervous since this never happened to him.
Suddenly, Janine leaned over and kissed him. It was one of those kisses that murmur, “Let’s get lost.”
Janine stood up and started walking away. She stopped and took Jalen’s hand.
“Well, are you coming?”

•••

PARADISE LOST
by Jim Gallagher

I thought that the blind date was going okay, but she appeared somewhat distant. Dinner and a movie seemed like a safe bet.
The dialogue in the screenplay included a statement by the hero, which had at least some promise of a positive outcome for the evening.
The hero stated “It was one of those kisses that murmur, ‘Let’s get lost’…” and the following scenes were very romantic.
Later, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to repeat the line verbatim, and I did so, hoping for a similar outcome.
Apparently, she only remembered the last two words, “Get lost.”

•••

CROSSWALK SURPRISE
by Carol Dray

Unexpectedly, he took her hand in the crosswalk. She blushed and looked down, catching a glimpse of his prominent Adam’s apple bobbing as they sprinted across the intersection.
She expected that he would let go first once they reached the other side and instinctively relaxed her grip.
Sensing her impulse to disengage, he instead embraced her, their hands still joined, now behind her back. Under the light of the street lamp, she looked up into his eyes and he cupped the back of her neck.
He kissed her longingly and murmured, “Let’s get lost…,” and she shook with desire.

•••

NATURAL SELECTION
by Diane S. Morelli

Lisette, a shy, studious biology major, eavesdropped as the campus buzzed with banter. The titillating topic was the upcoming Valentine’s Day event, Dress to Coalesce. Only singles were welcome, in costumes designed to attract their ideal romantic partner.
With some trepidation, Lisette adopted a party persona that exposed her inner prima donna.
Looking chic and feeling confident, she sashayed across the gymnasium once she spotted her sweetheart. She pulled him close. Their lips meet.
It was one of those kisses that made him murmur, ”Let’s get lost at my pad tonight, Miss Piggy.”
She mouthed, “Lead the way, Kermit.”

•••

A VALENTINE’S DAY THAT WASN’T
by Christine Viscuso

 “Thanks for working late.” Nick turned towards his assistant as the elevator descended, looked into her eyes, drew her to him and kissed her—first tentatively and then with passion.
 Kate always felt there was something between them. It was a kiss that murmured, “Let’s get lost in each other.” She pulled him closer.
 Nick broke away. “I can’t. I have Barb. She’s very needy.”
 “I just married Mike. I love him but he’s not you.”
 In the limo a tear fell from Nick’s cheek as he placed a silver bracelet around Kate’s wrist. “Happy Valentine’s Day, sloe eyes.”

•••

FIXING COMPUTERS
by Kris Lynn

Andie stepped around the desk and sidled past the tall computer expert with the keen, yet somehow soulful eyes. Looking away, she pointed at her laptop. “Fix, please.”
“Sure. About this week, uh, last night, we.…”
“Michael. There’s no we. You’re from New York. This is a dude ranch.”
“Horses scare me, you break computers. So what?”
“We’re worlds apart.”
He smiled, stepped closer. “Can fix that, too.”
His lips pressed hers, whispering, Let’s get lost in a new world.
Andie swayed in her mud-encrusted boots.
Michael repositioned his coke-bottle glasses. “I think the reprogramming is complete.”

•••

A FLASH AND A KISS
by Ryan Matthews

The black-and-white picture now faded, my Valentine memento.
We posed for that Polaroid, your arm snuggly around my waist. Our first meeting; actually it was my only blind date with another man.
The photographer readied. “Now smile” he said.
You cocked your head in my direction. I felt excitement, safe and happy.
There was a flash and then a zip sound from the film; the cameraman counted down as the celluloid developed.
He handed me the black-and-white images.
Suddenly, your warm lips touched mine. It was one of those kisses that murmur; “Let’s get lost.”    

•••

LOVE, VACATION STYLE
by Pat Shevlin
I lay, peacefully watching the movement of long shadows painting the sand in the late Caribbean sun. 
The beach bum I had observed for days approached. He gestured toward the hammock. “Is there room for two?”
Responding with a smile, I tossed my beach towel. “Yes, but there is a share charge.” 
We swayed in the sun-bleached hammock as he maneuvered—slipping, sliding, and laughing. His tanned skin, warm and moist, became one with my mine. 
 “Will this do?” He tossed his baseball cap and lowered himself to caress my lips in a kiss that murmured, “Let’s get lost…”

••• 

§§§

Volunteer posters wanted:

Every week beginning on the third Saturday of the month, I turn the stage over to a guest author. If you are an author, preferably one with a published book you want to tell the world about, and if you have thoughts and feelings about the pleasure and craft of writing stories, I invite you to get in touch with me by email: jmd@danielpublishing.com.

§§§

Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for next month’s 99-word story submissions is March 1! The stories will appear on my blog post for March 12 and the week following.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY:

The title of this illustration is “It Hit Me Like a Tornado.” Write a 99-word story inspired by the illustration or the title, but don’t make it about the weather.




§§§

And now a word from our sponsor:

WHEN I REACH YOU
Poems by Dean Olson
978-1-56474-580-4
84 pages
paperback, $14.00

With love our lives are burnished treasure.
Shyness abandoned,
we stand naked and without shame
in the mellow loom of a lantern,
in the bright day of a meadow,
raised from the dark into a freshness
where we appear to one another as we are,
validated and vigorous.
        
Stirring and strongly written, Dean Olson’s new book of poems, When I Reach You, is romantic, even erotic at times, and always thoughtful. The poems say much about love, and how important love is to the human condition, especially over the passage of time into the late years of life.

We also find here moving expressions of love for parents and friends, and fond memories of the poet’s rural youth; but Olson returns over and over in this book to the theme of love in relationship, in being coupled in life’s great adventure of change. “Time is enslaved as lovers lie in the warmth of their private sun.”

Dean Olson is emeritus faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington.  He has published twelve poetry collections.  His poems can be found in The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, The Lyric, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Windfall, Cascade #2, and in other publications.  His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Washington State Book Award in Poetry.


§§§

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week, I hope! Meanwhile, happy reading and writing, and may you continue to enjoy the joy of story.






8 comments:

  1. Loved the 99 word stories. What fun. Don't think that's my gift. I'm too wordy! You have some very talented folks submitting these little gems. Thanks for sharing with others.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Elaine. THanks !

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  2. I just love this month's stories, John. Such imaginations and, as Elaine says, "fun" -- and a special big smile for my students who contributed. Happy Valentine's Day, all of you!

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    1. Thanks so much, Eileen. And thank you for alerting your students to the game. You're cultivating some talented writers. They're lucky to have you as a teacher.

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    2. . . . and they are lucky to have a venue like yours where they can see their work in print, to be "published" writers. XXX

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  3. Sorry I am late to this blog, but wow did I enjoy the content of this blog and certainly the variety of stories submitted in response to your prompt. I learned over twenty plus years working as a secretary in the Litigation Department at a prominent NYC law firm that the Court appreciated brevity. One of my best skills was letting my attorney ramble on for five pages in a letter to a judge and then striking every egregious adjective directed to opposing counsel. A better letter maker!

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    Replies
    1. Pat, good for you for appreciating brevity, and for shortening the long-winded letter by lawyers in love with their own voices. I hope they thanked you!

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  4. John,
    Well said. Maybe our reluctance to ID ourselves as writers partially stems from the fact that it's one of the few professions where it's semi-acceptable to still be in pajamas at noon! Not that I do this...

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