Fare Thee Well, Ficlets

AOL is closing down the Ficlets community today.  It’s leaving a lot of frequent contributors upset and looking for a new home for their work on the vast ol’ interwebs.

I had mixed feelings about it – the concept is great: write a story using only 1,024 characters, including spaces (that’s one byte of information, if you’re curious about the number.)

It was also a community project of sorts – anyone could take your story and write a prequel or a sequel to it.  Hell, multiple someones could do that, and you could have several different continuations spawned off of the same intial story, a sort of unending chain of alternate realities.

The biggest problem I had with it was how many people would essentially write a big long story, then break it up into ficlet-sized chunks, publishing parts 1-80 in rapid succession (also filling up all 20-odd spots in the “recently published” column, so if you didn’t care about Sally and Johnny’s angsty argument at the lockers between classes, you had to go searching to find the other recent stuff.)

Point is, if you’re spamming a whole story like that, it’s not a ficlet anymore.  It’s a short story and probably ought to go up on some other creative writing website.  It also takes away from the idea of other people continuing the narrative.

Anyway.  Cool concept, could have used a bit of tweaking or at least moderation — only allowing posts once an hour, maybe, or sorting the “recently posted” column by most recent authors rather than newest posts.  But that’s pretty moot now.

I only ever wrote five of them, five thousand one hundred twenty total characters’ worth of stories. Here’s one of them, for your entertainment.  I’ve mentioned before that one of them might want to be a longer story.  This is the one.

“Let Down Your Hair”

The castle loomed, as castles are wont to do. Its towers scraped the bottom of the sky. Within, princesses slept on silken pillows, piles of lumpy mattresses, beds of nettles. A few were awake, wishing for the Princes Charming to gallop across the drawbridge below.

Rapunzel grew tired of waiting.

Tying the end of her braid to the hook on the wall, she rappelled her way to freedom. When her feet touched solid ground she severed her locks at the nape of her neck with a sharp-edged stone.

The king’s soldiers didn’t stop her; she was the witch’s ward (or one of them), and they’d never liked witches. Those hags turned unlucky men into frogs or stone or geese on a whim. Who could blame a girl for wanting to get out?

Instead they gave her ale and apples, a warm cloak, and a magic flute confiscated from a giant. The shoemaker brought her a pair of elf-made boots for the road. The East Wind ruffled her boy-short hair and whispered a name in her ear.

Rapunzel bade all them farewell and set off to find her fortune.

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