Monday, January 31, 2011

Less is More

This blog is not a platform for my own writing. That said, and in the interest of championing the 300-character short story form, I'm proud to announce that I recently won a fiction-to-film contest with my matchbook story, One Way Out.

The contest was hosted by the Storymatic, a writing prompt/teaching tool/parlor game/toy that provides two sets of cards--one Characters, the other Situations--with which to generate stories. Submissions were judged by Chochkey Productions, an indie film company out of Bethlehem, PA, making movies, commercials and webcasts for the last handful of years. The rules were simple: use the Storymatic to write some sort of narrative (short story, script, novel excerpt, whatever), and the winning story will be made into a film. I submitted three matchbook stories. One Way Out won.

For the last year-plus, I've been using the Storymatic to write matchbook stories--lots of them!--to explore the limits, nay, the possibilities of 300-character narratives. On my own, I am grossly inept at generating new people and predicaments for each and every tale, but with the Storymatic, the characters and situations are endless. I always "play the hand I am dealt," blindly drawing two Character cards and two Situation cards to direct my story. Some stories come out flat, others cryptic or too reaching. But occasionally I hit pay dirt: the pieces click together, and, viola! a story. No matter the outcome, I love the challenge of "fitting" the Character/Situation cards into 300 little boxes (I use graph paper to compose my ditties). I now have nearly a 100 matchbook stories under my belt, one of which is presently being made into a movie (WTF?!).

When Eric Leadbetter, mastermind of Chochkey Productions, called to tell me that I'd won, I hooted 'n hollered and then asked, "Are you serious?" In a fiction-to-film contest, I didn't think my 300'ers stood a chance against a short story or a script or any other form that would likely provide more imagery than 300 characters could muster. I told him so, but Eric disagreed: "We think there's a real gem here. You've told a story while suggesting an entire world behind it. We like that. It gives us some license to fill in the blanks." Ah-ha, I thought. The super-short, very-suggestive story form worked to my advantage. Eric confirmed: "We got a lot of submissions: short stories, vignettes, full-length scripts, treatments, novel excerpts... We like yours because it tells a story, but it doesn't tell us how it should look. We think we'd have a lot of fun fleshing out the bones of this story." "Sounds good to me!" I said. What's more, with a $25o prize, I became the most highly paid writer ever at nearly $1 per character! Who says you can't make it at this game?

Here's my point: matchbook stories are stories: you can, and should, submit them anywhere. Of course, you should submit them first to Matchbook Story where they'll be understood and cherished more than anywhere else. There is room in the world for 300 characters. God knows more have been used for much less. For what it's worth, here's that story:

One Way Out

The hunter fell down the mine shaft. The miner found him. The hunter yelled up, "Help! I broke my leg!" The miner called down, "What's your name, boy?" It was his son's lover, JT. "Listen, JT. I have one condition. If you want out, you come out. What do you say?" The shot briefly lit the boy's face.


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