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Sunday Micro Fiction: Of Kings, Queens, and Ron Carlson’s “Grief”

E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Nov­el famous­ly looked at plot and sto­ry as such:

Let us define a plot. We have defined a sto­ry as a nar­ra­tive of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a nar­ra­tive of events, the empha­sis falling on causal­i­ty. ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a sto­ry. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot. The time-sequence is pre­served, but the sense of causal­i­ty over­shad­ows it. Or again: ‘The queen died, no one knew why, until it was dis­cov­ered that it was through grief at the death of the king.’ This is a plot with a mys­tery in it, a form capa­ble of high devel­op­ment. It sus­pends the time-sequence, it moves as far away from the sto­ry as its lim­i­ta­tions will allow. Con­sid­er the death of the queen. If it is in a sto­ry we say ‘and then’? If it is in a plot we ask ‘why?’ That is the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between these two aspects of the nov­el. A plot can­not be told to a gap­ing audi­ence of cave-men or to a tryan­ni­cal sul­tan or to their mod­ern descen­dant the movie-pub­lic. They can only be kept awake by ‘and then–and then–’ They can only sup­ply curios­i­ty. But a plot demands intel­li­gence and mem­o­ry also.


Out of this quote comes Ron Carlson’s “Grief,” a micro fic­tion piece from The Mis­sis­sip­pi Review that is one of my all-time favorites. Your task today is write a piece around 250 words that does what Carl­son did with a famous quote about some aspect of the (short) short. Have at it, and let us know how it goes.

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