An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Monday, November 8, 2010

One Word for Ten...or a Hundred?

I found the following observation (confession?) from Kate DiCamillo at The Pippin Insider: "Telling stories is hard work; the stories that I like, the ones that seem most powerful to me, have an ineffable quality of one word seeming to do the work of ten words."

One word for ten? Sounds daunting, eh? How about one word for a hundred? Let flash back to an earlier post of mine where I asked whether it was possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand. (i.e., a ratio of one word for one hundred).  Here’s what I wrote:

Is it possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand?

I've been contemplating this question since reading a wonderful short story, Bog Rhubard Shoots, by Yamashiro Tomoe (it's from the book, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows). It tells the tale of Mitsuko, a young Japanese woman, who, in the 1940s, was sent to prison for her involvement in the left-wing political movement (as was her husband, who was assigned to different prison).

Under the terms of her conviction, Mitsuko "could write only one letter of postcard length each month. Even though the frequency and length of the letters were limited, they still had to be checked over by four persons: the guard, the chief guard, the chaplain, and the supervisor of the guards. Under these circumstances, one hundred words had to do the job of ten thousand in the letters that Mitsuko and her husband exchanged. If a letter written under restricted conditions failed to pass the censors and was stamped 'To be handed over upon release,' the letter itself would probably shed tears."



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