One name defines my memories of elementary school creative writing lessons: Lauren.
Each week, our teacher would make us put our spelling words in a story. Most members of the class — myself included — would turn in no more than two pages’ worth of neatly written paragraphs.
Then, there was Lauren.
Without fail, she’d turn in a heavy stack of notebook paper. She filled the front and back of each page and didn’t skip lines. Her weekly installments often seemed too thick to accommodate a staple.
The stories’ length alone led us to declare her the best writer in the class.
Never mind the fact that her sentences often included descriptions like “very, very, very, very, very good” and “really, really, really, really, really hungry.”
It marked my first awareness of how a book’s size can affect our perception of its quality.
There’s something uniquely brag-worthy about conquering an especially long novel. Its size can give the illusion of more symbolism, more opportunities for interpretation, more characters to dissect.
Young-adult novels in particular seem to have gotten especially thicker in recent years. Thanks to the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” universes, announcing that you stayed up all night to finish a novel carries some extra weight.
Amid the long novel’s lure, there’s a growing contention that smaller is bigger in the literary world.
The Los Angeles Times’ book blog, Jacket Copy, recently directed readers to “Hint Fiction” — a new book that includes stories told in 25 words or fewer. Contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, James Frey and more.
Jacket Copy notes “Hint Fiction” is an extension of a brevity movement that includes Twitter novels and six-word memoirs. Thanks to social media, even non-authors have learned to appreciate the challenge of a good word limit.
One-sentence stories carry their own potential for interpretation, perhaps to a greater extent than novels that encompass hundreds of pages describing characters’ intentions.
The idea behind “Hint Fiction” — a belief that a 25-word story can suggest a “larger, more complex story” — adds depth to a writing style that is often prematurely dubbed easy.
Then again, maybe the rise of digital readers will eliminate any attempts to correlate quality with book’s physical size. Maybe a shift in publishing trends will erase my elementary school-inspired tendency to label a big book a good book.
And for that, Lauren, I’m very, very, very sorry.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.