Mini Saga Workshop and Mini Saga #58 – Karma

By Rajesh Setty | Published on:

If you have been reading my blog for sometime, you know about mini sagas. It is a story that is told in exactly 50 words. Not 49 or 51 but exactly 50.

I have had many requests about how to write a mini saga. I have written close to 100 mini sagas and published around 57 of them. That does not make me an expert on writing mini sagas but writing about hundred of them has taught me a lot of things. I will share a few of those lessons with you.

[ For the curious folks, you can read why you should write a mini saga in this ChangeThis Manifesto ]

First and foremost, I don’t write mini sagas without a message. Everyone is busy and I know that they don’t come to this blog to read fiction. With that in the background, here are the steps:

1. Start with a message

This is the very first step – to identify the theme or category on which you want to convey. Is it about love, caring, violence, parenting, politics or innovation or anything else that captures your interest? After you identify the broad theme, identify the specific message you want to convey.

2. Think of an action or an event to convey this message

This is probably the most important step. Think of an action or an event that will make you think or realize that message. It is in line with the age old mantra – “show, not tell.” For example, if you want to show that your hero is brave, don’t say “John is a brave soldier.” That will be lame. Make John take an action that will make the readers make an assessment about John’s bravery.

3. Build the characters

Now that you have identified an action or an event, you need characters to play that event or take that action. Determine as many characters as you need to make that event happen or take that action.

4. Construct the plot

I won’t go into all the details of plot construction so here is a shortcut. You need two things to get to that “desired action” – exposition ( setting the context ) and a series of other actions that will lead to the “desired action.”

The key here is to see what kind of mystery you can pack that will ultimately elicit an “Aha moment” in the mind of the reader.

5. Write the story (without worrying about the length)

If you have come this far, writing the story is as simple as introducing the characters, setting the context and making the characters do whatever they are supposed to do until they take the desired action or until the desired event occurs.

6. Adjust and Re-adjust until the story fits within the constraints ( 50 words )

Of course, at this stage, you have the story that is conveying the message. Now, the next step is to adjust and re-adjust until the story fits within the 50 characters. Most of the adjustment is in removing un-necessary words but still keeping the meaning.

Here is a personal example of the mini saga writing in action

Real Example of Writing a Mini Saga

The title of the story is Karma.

The message I want to convey is “what goes around comes around.”

I start off thinking about what should happen to a character or what event should occur to make the reader get the above message. After some thinking, I make up a character called John who tries something fishy and finally ends up with the short end of the stick. Something has to happen in the story where John will be hunting for the victim and in the end he becomes the victim. Since I know that lot of characters can’t be involved in the story, I make up just one other character Nancy who works with John. Now, I think about leading to those events in the form of conversations between Nancy and John.

Here is the first attempt.

Take One:

Nancy asked, “Are you sure you want to charge them this amount. You know that it’s really not worth that much.” John responded, “I know that Nancy but really, all is fair in love and war.” Nancy shrugged and walked away to ship the product to the new prospect. This was a reasonably large order and with that order John would be making a killing. Next week Nancy came into John’s office with a worried face and almost screamed, “John, Mark’s check bounced and not just that, his number is no longer working.”

Obviously this does not cut it in the first attempt. I didn’t think it would. It’s about 94 words. So, here is the next attempt.

Take Two

“This is the biggest order from Mark ever. Do you still want to keep the same price?” Nancy asked. John smiled and said, “Yes, all is fair in war and love.” Nancy confirmed clicked something on her iPhone and said, “OK, the order will be shipped tonight.” Next week, Nancy came rushing with a worry on her face, “John, Mark is no longer reachable and the check bounced.”

This is a bit better and the word count is now down to 68 from 94 words. Moving on to the next round

Take Three

It was the biggest order from Mark. “Same price?” Nancy asked with a wry smile. “Yes Nancy, let’s milk this account.” Nancy clicked “Confirm” on her iPhone and said that the order will be shipped tonight. That Friday, Nancy came rushing to John’s office, “John, we are doomed. Mark’s check bounced.”

Ok, we are making progress. The word count is now 51. We just have to shave off one word from the story.

Take Four

It was the biggest order from Mark. “Same price?” Nancy asked with a wry smile. “Yes Nancy, let’s milk this account.” Nancy clicked “Confirm” to get the order shipped. That Friday, Nancy came rushing to John’s office, “John, we are doomed. Mark’s check bounced.”

OK, this time, the word count came down to 44 – meaning we have six more words to make the story richer.

Take Five

It was the biggest order from Mark. “Same price?” Nancy asked with a wry smile. John said, “Yes Nancy, let’s milk this account.” Nancy clicked “Confirm” to get the order shipped. That Friday, Nancy came rushing to John’s office, “John, we are doomed. Mark’s check bounced nobody there is reachable.”

OK, we got that covered in 50 words, exactly but it took five attempts.

So, here is the mini saga

Mini Saga #58 – Karma

It was the biggest order from Mark. “Same price?” Nancy asked with a wry smile. John said, “Yes Nancy, let’s milk this account.” Nancy clicked “Confirm” to get the order shipped. That Friday, Nancy came rushing to John’s office, “John, we are doomed. Mark’s check bounced nobody there is reachable.”

Good luck with your own mini saga.

Note:

1. A mini saga is a story told in exactly 50 words. Not 49 or 51 but exactly 50.

2. You can download a photographic manifesto of Mini Sagas at ChangeThis. Here is the link – Mini Sagas: Bite-sized Wisdom for Life and Business (PDF, 2.9MB).

3. For a complete list of Mini Sagas, please see the entire list here or at Squidoo.

4. Photo Credit: wvs on Flickr

Rajesh is a frequent speaker at conferences and companies on
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