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Sunday Micro Fiction: Writing the (Very) Short Short in Cartoons

In Saturday's interview, Ramon Collins discussed his entry into the world of micro fiction through cartooning:

I was a pretty fair men's room newspaper staff artist and cartoonist in Seattle before I started to lose small-muscle control in my hands. To stay involved with the creative act, I started studying, and writing, fiction in 1997. I instinctively was drawn to the Micro craft because I type with one (1) finger and a cartoon is a form of short-short fiction--you don't tell about characters and settings, you show it.

When I first started experimenting with shorter forms, I too entered this world through the cartoon. My cartoons sucked, yes, but I learned a few things about working in compressed forms. (Added later: Because I cannot draw, "cartooning" for me has meant working with graphics I have on my computer, especially those from Ron & Joe.)


Structure. I titled my cartoons, so the cartoon existed of three parts: (1) title (2) image (3) caption. I learned that titles count, the "worth a thousand words" power of an image, and the importance of nailing that final line (the caption).



Synecdoche. It's a figure of speech in which the part stands in for the whole, as in "All hands on deck." Hands (the part) replaces humans (the whole), a substitution that emphasizes an important quality of the whole (in this case, their hands). Synecdochely and famously, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby as a "smile." The so-few words of micro rely on the power of such substitutions, including (perhaps) the central one in which the main figure stands in for some portion (or all) of us.


Break from the Pack. It wasn't long before I got the structure down that I wanted to break from it, to make my work feel as if it belonged to me and reflected my own sense of form and content. That might mean moving around the parts (title, image, caption), deleting parts, creating new parts, rethinking their purpose, and so on.

Dog Bully.jpg

In short, I found, through the cartoon, a creative challenge that appealed (very much) to my desire to discover myself and the world as poets might--through structure, compression, metaphor, and images. Something happens to words when -micro attaches to them--and fiction is no exception. -Micro makes things so very small, yes, but it draws out of each word its essence and its restriction, so that what remains feels strong and resolute: title, image, and a killah of a last line.


From Randall Brown

A clar­i­fi­ca­tion. I cre­at­ed these car­toons using graph­ics from my com­put­er. I did NOT draw them. I wish I had such tal­ent.

I like the way the three ele­ments pro­vide bal­ance and sym­me­try- like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And your car­toons are beau­ti­ful­ly illu­mi­nat­ing- a tiny human (or dog) moment- love­ly.

From Essay

The graph­ics showed a very sen­si­ble con­cepts. It is sim­ple yet very inspir­ing to the read­ers. I read an essay about car­toon­ing and it is said that this field is grow­ing espe­cial­ly in the com­put­er world. So, do not wor­ry that you don’t have a artis­tic tal­ent. We are in the world of inno­va­tion as of today so its a good prac­tice to do your car­toon in the com­put­er.

From Randall Brown

Sim­ple yet inspir­ing. I think that’s a cool thing to aim for in a lot of things.

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