The Vagaries of Viggy's Mind Blogger and about to be published novelist Eric Vignieri muses on the future of fiction
What’s up my valued reader. Your man Viggy here to do a little segment at the request of a reader and good friend of mine Jim!
Hey Jim! If you’re reading this, this is what you’ve been waiting for!
So the gist of the question is, “Where do I see the evolution of prose heading?” and I’m gonna break down a few different topics on the matter.
First I wanna start with a little conversation about technology and culture. Anyone living in the modern world understands a few basic things but I wanna put them down here for arguments sake.
Technology is ever improving, placing more ways to interact with culture directly in our hands. More people than ever are literate. More people than ever read! Our cultures dictate a go-go-go mentality (especially in America). While there may be more access to literature, more people able to read it, and more literature being published than ever, these facts stand in contrast to our culture. Finding the time to sit down and digest an entire book is a luxury few of us afford. The few associates of mind who do regularly read for sheer entertainment are usually the most voracious of readers. Now this is not to say that reading is not an amazing form of entertainment and easily one of the most healthy for your brains. However, our society encourages us not to read, because of the time commitment a novel can take.
Ultimately what has happened is the reader has become much more selective entirely through necessity. We don’t often have the time to read a synopsis or excerpt before deciding if we want to read a book. So instead we make judgement calls, based on things like title, cover, length, and that little paragraph on the back. There is nothing wrong with this, I wont hold it against any of you if in a few months when I release my book it doesn’t intrigue you enough to warrant your attention from the face.
However this does lead into the meat of this discussion, the evolution of prose. As humanity has evolved through technology and culture so to has prose. At first reading for entertainment was absurd, literacy was reserved for only the highest classes of society. Slowly however that changed, and now anyone can have access to literature. Next the process became easier, no longer would you need a large publisher, now you can have your book accessible throughout the world through digital distribution. Then came time, and unfortunately it is something humans have not gained much more of. So now take that all together, you have more ways to read, more books being published than ever before, but the same amount of time as ever to read all that extra content.
This process has of course lead us to being more selective, but I think not only will it shape what we choose to read, but how we read as well. This is why much of my writing focus on flash fiction, because I believe it is the next step in the evolution of prose. In a culture that necessitates efficiency, productivity, and speed we are encouraged to either put the book down or try to fit it into bite sized morsels. Flash fiction on the other hand reverses that. Rather than expecting you to squeeze as much reading into the small window of time you have, flash fiction seeks to give you a self contained story you don’t need to put down and come back to.
And that is where I believe prose is evolving to. Writing will no longer be about the epic told over a series (they will always have their place) but about the self contained story told in as few words as possible, while simultaneously being as impactful as possible. This format already fits well into our phones, where the majority of reading happens on the day to day anyway. It’s the type of story that can be read, digested, and provoke thought all while on your fifteen minute lunch break. It’s the type of reading that encourages you to read, because it allows you to be entertained without having to wait for the big payoff, something our impatient American society loves.
Truthfully, much of the written spectrum is already moving this way. Think of advertisement, think of news articles, think of your social media feed. The trend continues to show the condensation of language, a focusing on the impact, and the dissemination of information that hits all fronts of your reward processing. Not only that, but the process of flash fiction is incredibly fun for the writer. No need to build complex character profiles, or construct a coherent and elaborate story outline. The format of 1500 words or less doesn’t encourage that. Instead it places the act of meaning creation on your readers, which is how the reader prefers the process to be anyway. It makes you drop the unnecessary, and get right into building an engaging and entertaining story.
Given another 25 years I think flash fiction is likely to become the most popular for of prose. For the variety of reasons I listed above, mainly its condensed form, reliance on readers meaning making, and the proliferation of more reading taking place through digital mediums.
That’s all for this weekend edition. Hope your week rocked, and that you enjoyed everything I posted for you throughout the week. If you have any suggestion for the next weekend editions topic, feel free to comment below! As always I’ll see you tomorrow for our Hello to segment.