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MINIMAL ENGLISH

Small Experiment, Little Results

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Jan 10, 2011: I’m all for experiments in literature—I’ve seen and tried a lot myself. It can be as simple as writing in the present tense instead of the past, having multiple narrators, secrets in the text or subversion of common memes, or non-linear story structure, among others.

"Minimal English" is experimental in format, in that you click different parts of the site to get different sections of the story. There’s no particular order and the sections kind of stand on their own while kind of being connected to the rest. And it’s that ‘kind of" that leads me to rate this as low as I do—I don’t feel like I’m really gaining anything from the experience.

The thing I personally love best about stories is the way that they immerse you in a world, with interesting people and their challenges. They live and breathe and grow and struggle, and sometimes they fall down and sometimes they triumph. Such stories can entertain us by taking us away from our own lives, but they often enrich those lives by giving us lessons or ideas or emotions we didn’t have before. Little unconnected blurbs, no matter how cleverly written, don’t have that same kind of emotional connection, immersive quality, nor the sense of directed purpose leading to deeper meanings.

Some experiments work out—sometimes present tense seems "strange" compared to past tense, but it can make actions and emotions more immediate. Multiple narrators can show stories from different viewpoints, opening us up to greater empathy or awareness. Planting different chapters in different hiding places without purpose or connection doesn’t do a lot for me, and so I don’t see a greater meaning to this minimal story.

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