Joyce Carol Oates on Miniature Narrative*

*she was referring to a very short story. But I think the extracts I’ve chosen apply to some poetry as well.

Since, in a miniature narrative, there is no time for the development of character, we are free of psychological detail, historic and cultural background, exposition- the tissue that comprises most of the substance of longer fiction. … because we know virtually nothing of the characters, we are able to identify with them in ways often not possible in longer fiction.

One way of approaching the miniature narrative is to read it backward, for the final line is everything. And one helpful way of composing the narrative is to write the final line first, and see how swiftly and gracefully one can move to it. 

4-5, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, “Miniature Narratives”, Telling Stories, Norton First Edition, USA, 1998. 


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