How do you create a story involving 300 characters?
I’m not talking about that Hollywood movie where 300 brave Spartans fight to the death against a 100,000-strong Persian attack force*.
This was a writing challenge I entered in late 2020: to write ‘a succinct micro-essay’ on an aspect of Australia life which displayed ‘keen insight and depth of knowledge, rather than sentiment’.
The ‘essay’ was limited to 300 characters, including spaces!
Yes, 300 keyboard characters, not 300 words. Or 300 protagonists.
This is the pen-picture of contemporary Australia I entered in the competition:
I’m the wildfire racing through the ranges,
the climate change that’s in the wind.
See in me a post-war migrant, worker, parent, refugee.
Hear my ancient cry From the Heart.
I’ve marched on Anzac Day, won the Stella Prize, hit 100 at the Gabba
and survived the Ruby Princess.
Still waltzing, Matilda!
Feel free to make the count, but I can assure you there are exactly 300 characters including spaces.
The Small Truths competition ran for a month in late 2020, in conjunction with the better known Horne Essay Prize.
The winner of the Horne Prize itself has been announced, but I’ve yet to find any mention of the Small Truths short list or winner. And I’ve given up waiting for my congratulatory email😉. But at least I can share my entry with you here.
I like to think my micro-essay displays ‘keen insight and depth of knowledge’ about modern-day Australia. I know some of the references will mean more to Australians than most other readers across the world, so I’ve provided links to follow up if you want to.
There’s nothing like having a word limit (or a character limit) to test your ability to be succinct.
As most students know only too well from high school onwards😉.
Until next time
* The Persian Army was led by King Xerxes, a name which seems to me to be a good Scrabble word, if it was allowed.