Coming soon to Hatrack Thirteen-Lines Challenges:
The Summer Marathon Challenge
Or Winter Marathon Challenge, as it were, for Southern Hemisphere challengers.
Posting opens on the summer solstice and continues through the vernal equinox, June 20th and September 22nd, respectively. Voting to follow thereafter.
Enter as few as none or as many thirteen lines as self-selected. One entry per post, please. Entry posts are open submissions, under user member name, not blind submission. Please include a title per entry. These former are as per axeminster's challenge model, as given for recent prior challenges in the Challenge forum.
The prompt is twofold; one, topic: futuristic science fiction, fantasy, horror, or creative nonfiction, or combinations thereof; two, standalone thirteen lines that entails a start, a middle, and an end of a transformative outcome. A complete action in and of itself, the fragment could be entire in itself, flash fiction, per se, or the start of a longer narrative.
Ergo, fragments could be narrator prologues, backstory, viewpoint persona preludes, a natural chronological start, in medias res, or nonlinear timelines. Whatever.
Futuristic, more specifically, to mean projections of near-future events. This is a challenge to predict the future.
Let's consider, for example, contemporary horror fantasy from a fantastic science slant: the Zika virus runs wild and causes the much speculated about zonbi apocalypse!? Hard science fiction, maybe? Fantastic science and technology that mines mineral resources from near-Earth asteroids for Earth delivery. Precious metal values plummet; financial market chaos transpires -- dystopia. Magic milieu fantasy? Actual re-institution of magics. Spiritual milieu horror fantasy? Reimaginations of Scriptural passages or such and like. Pure psychological horror? The global world order upset by re-institution of tyrant imperialism under the guise of transnational corporations.
Or most anything futuristic, really, crystal ball stuff and junk. These above, though, are overly broad prompts, in that they are milieu based. Thirteen lines and a standalone dramatic unit are themselves the emphases; that is, a complete action that starts, middles, and ends on at least a discernible change in at least one persona's state of being, includes narrator.
Consider word-count budget, that one-fourth of the lines is the start, one-half is the middle, and one-fourth is the end; respectively, three lines to start story movement, six lines to escalate story movement, three lines to wrap up story movement to some degree, and one line to spare and use wherever.
Note that a narrator summary and explanation tell is not out of the question, nor is show, nor fusions thereof. Emotional charge, at least, is foremost for effectual reader effect and engagement; that is, an emotionally charged, approving or disapproving, or, ironically, both, attitude toward a focal topic.
The crux of the challenge is that emotional charge expression, so to speak, the third prompt for the summer challenge. Let loose the rage, the joy, the sorrow, etc., the emotions of life on to the proverbial creative expression page. Let it all hang out.
Set up the crystal ball or the pansieve or the psychohistory projector and predict what the future holds for the emotional human condition in the person of one specific persona, right?
Same arc type as Hemingway's proverbial missive.
Help wanted: glass hammer tester. 6d nails provided.
Chart Legend: Buoy positions approximate. Beware of shipwrecks in channel.
Welcome to bullet-proof vest industries. The test range is open. Never mind the scars.
Lead balloon pilot training academy: Flight suits and goggles optional. Low-cost burial insurance available.
All ships at sea, mariner's warning: Waterlines subject to unravel. Mind the wooden round-tuits.
Bank office found wallpapered with counterfeit banknotes. Paperhanger wanted for questioning. Reward offered for location of press.
Or more to the point:
In the beginning, said Mand Han the seer, there was the Big Bang. Between time and space's continuum extremes, much ado about nothing of substance transpired. In the end, there was the Big Shred and then the Big Collapse. Repeat infinitely.
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Perhaps a discussion of segment sequencing in advance of the Summer Challenge start is helpful.
Logic holds a sequence basis; that is, a natural, chronological progression of cause and effect. A causes effect B; cause A and effect B cause effect C; cause A and effects B and C cause effect D. Cause and effect, for prose anyway, are cumulative.
Logical fallacies' values for prose notwithstood -- cum hoc and post hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacies, for example.
For prose also, such causation segment sequences progress from preparation to suspension's delay and consequent anticipation of a satisfaction outcome to a satisfaction outcome. Those are structural organization conditions that follow a natural and logical progression. Nonlinear timeline progressions notwithstood. More nonlinear anon.
A first cause in the sense of a complication and preparation segment is a want-problem incitement. Ask what causes the arousal of the want-problem, maybe who, when, where and why and how, too. The first cause therein is a preparation segment. Say Ubernoel wants to go to work. Want, huh? Must! Why? for love of work or money. Work is universal enough to the human condition that a portrait of the start toward or the journey to implies enough to be a want-problem itself.
Side note, many narratives involve workplace complications, others might focus on family, others on personal relationships, in some way all involve social interaction and, crucially, social contention. Combat, whether of formal or informal instances, is a workplace activity, for example.
So Ubernoel travels toward work. That is a routine, every work day activity. Routine-type openings, in and of themselves, imply the routine is about to suffer interruption. However, foreshadowing of the interruption prepares for suspension and anticipation.
Even if Ubernoel daily drives an armored and armed AMC Gremlin carpool (carpool so passengers are poised for interaction and dialogue, plus allies to help) through a gauntlet of armed and malicious miscreants to work, that is the routine. In that instance, though, that that is the routine suffices to prepare, surprise, suspend, anticipate, and delay satisfaction.
Ubernoel wants to get to work, like any other workday. Miscreants and passengers routinely problematize that want. Ubernoel routinely manages the problems. Today -- this day is different. How? More cause preparation is indicated. For profound and sublime reasons, self-caused problems appeal more than external problems. Late, in a rush, perhaps Ubernoel forgot to reload the main gun's magazine. Ubernoel routinely reloads his arsenal, checks and repairs what needs repair, routinely prepares for each day's travel.
Some minor oversight causes Ubernoel to be unprepared for an especially perilous journey. Ubernoel realizes the oversight when the first obstacle comes up. The challenge is met, routinely, this one anyway. The complication of the moment is satisfied, though worse lays ahead. In that case, the larger complication is suspended and remains unsatisfied. The oversight worry remains. The outcome is in doubt. That is suspension's cumulative delay.
How, though, to timely satisfy the want-problem overall and without telegraphing Ubernoel will inevitably succeed in getting to work? The next segment re-prepares, re-suspends, re-satisfies the want-problem of the moment and leaves the overall outcome in doubt and unsatisfied until the end. Well, Ubernoel also has to return home, right? Oh, yeah!?
Ubernoel orders a supply delivery to the workplace. Meanwhile, the journey to work is incomplete. Maybe supplies are supplemented from miscreants' stockpiles. Maybe another route to work is followed. Maybe both. The last confrontation on the way in causes damage that can't be satisfactorily fixed at work. More risks and worries confront Ubernoel. Chances must be taken. Outcome remains in doubt until the final satisfaction effect of the last act.
A nonlinear timeline might start with the departure and cycle back in time to an earlier episode, say that a distraction prevented Uberbnoel from rearming. Ubernoel realizes that when the first obstacle arises and the ammunition magazines are low. That flashback, or other recollection type, say a conversation where Ubernoel and a passenger recount a distraction from the evening before and blame each other, functions as a suspension segment. It could be placed mid action, say amid the firefight at the first obstacle, which could cause a greater problem than the routine problem -- that they are further distracted mid action. That episode passes, somewhat satisfied. The larger complication remains.
Let's say for purposes of a fresh and lively take and completeness of action for the above that the outcome reveals Ubernoel's job is to chauffeur neighbors to work and clear miscreants from the route somewhat. That it isn't really a job, it's his entertainment for which he is richly compensated. He arrives at the destination, worse for the wear, and must turn around and soon go back.
Now anon. Nonlinear timelines adjust episode sequences so that they start with a later moment in time where a complication incitement starts then cycle back to earlier times to develop event, setting, and character matters necessary to understand a main action, like backstory. Several narratives' timelines start at a future time and regress backward in time, episode by episode, to an original incitement. Do any narratives start at a future time and progress to a past-time outcome? Other than time travel narratives. How about nonlinear portraits that are past, present, and future episode by episode? I know of maybe one or two.
That Ubernoel sketch above is a model for segment sequencing. First cause A causes effect B; cause A and effect B cause effect C; cause A and effects B and C cause effect D; cause A and effects B, C, and D cause final effect E. And so on.
For the Summer Challenge, though, the page real estate available is thirteen lines. Other than grand scale sweep and scope examples that naturally lend themselves to narrator summary and explanation tell, like the Big Bang example above, a narrowly focused action is indicated, narrow in terms of event, setting, and character, complication and emotional charge and time elapsed most of all, development.
Close and specific to the immediate now moment of an action, includes first incitement, limited degree of complication magnitude -- a life-long want-problem cannot be satisfied in so short a time span that thirteen lines can artfully portray.
Thirteen lines' roughly 130 words count amounts to about one minute of reading time, average. Narrative time is the total elapsed reading time a narrative consumes. Story time is the elapsed time a narrative portrays and could be a single no-elapsed moment in time -- the Hemingway example hoptoad posted above, could span the current universe's elapsed lifetime, span infinity, as the Big Bang example above does, or most any time span. The closer narrative and story time are to each other offers appeal potential considerations. Ergo, the breakdown above for start, middle, and end lines elapsed.
What dramatic complication sequence can possibly take place in the span of a minute or so? That entails action, sensation, emotion, and story movement, and event, setting, and character? That is this challenge's challenge and the function, as I see it, of Hatrack's thirteen lines principle.
This challenge crosses over into more difficult and challenging territory than thirteen lines anticipates, though, an effort to accomplish that end cannot but aid otherwise longer prose's opening compositions. Plus, in my estimation, this exercises methods for a degree of dramatic unit harmonic completeness of whatever length composition: a novel, a chapter, a paragraph, maybe even a sentence.
Let's please constructively discuss these matters of logical causation, timeline, and segment sequencing in regard to the Summer Challenge and thirteen lines generally.
Haiku, tanka, sonnet, etc., no worries on my part. Poetry works for me if contestants are inclined. Probably the only near absolute of entries is the thirteen-lines one. Ms. Dalton Woodbury cuts any that go over.
I thought about disqualifying any entry that was cut down in size by Ms. Dalton Woodbury, from lost lines that could wrap up a sequence and thus fall short of the challenge's completeness prompt, though rejected that criteria due to, one, it is unnecessarily cruel, unnecessary altogether; two, maybe that encourages revision; three, the essential content probably survives anyway, and four, is contrary to Hatrack's writing supports mission.
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Summer Thirteen Lines Challenge Marathon opening in six days, June 20th.
Complete dramatic sequence of a complication-conflict: start-preparation, middle-suspension and anticipation, end-satisfaction
emotionally charged attitude
Any genre, any narrative point of view; that is, narrator or viewpoint persona -- any and all entries welcome, multiple entries, too.
Another consideration not yet expressed: multiple, sequential entries may be sequential modules, episodes, so to speak, only that they be standalone, complete dramatic units as best they are able to be.
Ms. Dalton Woodbury's observation in the recent "Flashbacks" thread that nonlinear timeline narratives entail a "relevatory" sequence is one way to compose and organize modular episodes, as above.
For members who are frustrated only opening thirteen lines may be posted in "Fragments" forums, if modular episodes is chosen, this challenge might somewhat satisfy, maybe mitigate that want.
"Creative writing is a marathon." (Hatrack's Meredith!?)
That would be great. Part of the inspiration for this challenge comes from excerpts from longer works that stand alone complete and are reprinted as such.
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This is tougher than I thought it would be, worth the candle though.
The temptation to tell more than show is strong. Small ideas with inevitable surprise outcomes seems to be a strategy for stronger show. Also, close as practical to an outcome and portrayed discovery and reversal are strategies. Motivation, stakes, and tone, too.
The dread life and death stakes conflict seems an easy tension engine for the above. At what personal and public cost the complication-conflict contest?
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That's one of those often-observed observations about narrative of no traceable origin, maybe Aristotle -- valid observation nonetheless.
Narratives of whatever length, though, must include a transformative characteristic, even otherwise nondramatic narratives; like, anecdote, vignette, or sketch. Short prose often, I think, apocryphally anyway, may entail transformation of reader more so than within a narrative's internal meaning space. James Joyce's Ulysses and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, for examples.
Roughly half or so of the Microfiction Monday Magazine publications are of that external transformation nature -- meant to persuade at least minor reader reconsiderations.
All of those, though, involve discovery, reversal, and surprise, not per se internal transformation and not exclusive of internal transformation either.
Some entail decision, which is an effect product of discovery or reversal or both causes and of an antagonal nature. The sequence then is discovery, reversal, decision, parallel to the preparation, suspense and anticipation, and satisfaction sequence.
The thirteen-lines limitation then is a matter of a discrete and momentary process that incites a decision, incisive, at least, for a satisfaction outcome.
A discovered want-problem complication, one-fourth or so word count, roughly thirty-three words
An opposition stakes forces reversal conflict, one-half or so word count, roughly sixty-four words
A decision satisfaction outcome, one-fourth or so word count, roughly thirty-three words
The Hatrack general preference, though, is of fantastic fiction. Developing a fantastic genre thirteen-line standalone narrative is the challenge, decision satisfaction outcome or otherwise. Usually, the decision pivot transpires at the end of a third act of a five-act structure and leads into the falling action act and from there to the denouement act.
The one hundred forty-glyph limitation of Twitter patter posts is oddly amenable to the five-act structure -- five installment episodes -- and the thirteen-lines limitation. Which is 65 columns and thirteen rows for a total possible glyph count of 845, divided by 140 equals six parts. One 140-glyph part for introduction preamble, setup of the Twitter-ish context, and five 140-glyph episodes.
Discovery preparation exposition act I
Reversal rising action suspense act II
Reversal climax suspense act III
Decision reversal falling action anticipation act IV