Snackable Fiction (Pulp Toast)
by Paean Yeo and Jyotika Puri; edited by Edward Goh and Lee Russell
As the five writers waded into the room, we eyed the flashing words on the screen greedily: SNACKABLE FICTION by Pulp Toast.
Snackable fiction? we wondered. What is that? Is it edible?
The session kicked off with an introduction of the panellists and the publication they write for: Pulp Toast. Following that, the moderator dished out questions and each of the other four writers took turns to answer, consistently leaving the last person with crumbs. He (or she) always sighed, “Well, everyone else has basically already answered the question”. It was fascinating to hear each of their individual perspectives as they were writers from very different walks of life, ranging from a member of an advertising firm to someone at a publishing company moonlighting as a poet! Ultimately, what they believed to be snackable fiction was: a purely entertaining and exciting piece written under three thousand words.
“Sort of like flash fiction,” one of them pointed out. Another chimed in, “You can read it wherever you are – it’s on-the-go: on the bus, on the train…” Adding on, they described snackable fiction as a form that primarily serves to entertain: there is no “moral of the story”, no big global message. It’s something easily and quickly digestible – a snap of your teeth and it’s gone. It lacks nutritional value – just an immensely huge sigh of relief. It lifts you out of the daily drudgery of routine and gives you a little extra energy to get through the day.
The panellists agreed that the main highlight of snackable fiction is character development. Given its short, crisp nature, snackable fiction gives writers the opportunity to hone their skills in fleshing out a character. Snackable fiction behaves like an experiment, a hypothesis: is my character believable as a person? Pulp Toast dropped a few essentials:
- What is your character’s motivation?
- What do they want?
- Why do they want it?
- Why do we care?
More often than not, we tend to only focus on the first point and forget about the other two. Beginner writers especially fall into the trap of thinking that simply having a motivation is enough, but usually it isn’t! We need to understand our characters on a deep internal level in order to flesh them out more realistically and make them more believable for our readers. This point was definitely a waking call for all of us at the panel.
- What are your character’s physical traits?
- This helps your reader visualise the character.
Not just tall, dark and handsome. But how tall? How dark? Handsome? It’s the little bits of details like this that add more life and flavour to our writing!
- Give them prominent habits to help your audience connect with them.
From gestural habits when a character is feeling a particular emotion to words or catch-phrases that they tend to use to express themselves, nuances like this help to make your characters stand out among each other as unique individuals with personality!
- Use emotional character cues.
Don’t tell the readers what your characters are feeling. Show them through actions that are understandable and relatable in order to draw them closer to your characters and the story that you are crafting!
- Most importantly, leave bread crumbs: trust your readers!
- Let them figure out who the character is, instead of telling them straight in the face.
At the mention of this point, most of us looked down at our notebooks sheepishly. Sometimes we get so caught up in our writing that we end up over-describing. No need to tell your reader everything when they can figure some things out for themselves! It’s a more fun and relaxing read for them that way!
This session allowed all the panellists to speak about different topics so we were fed a healthy variety of opinions and great writing advice. However, the session felt more informative than interesting. The idea of snackable fiction is novel and rather innovative, but we felt more could have been done to make the session more toasty. For example, a mini-storytelling session could have been incorporated into the workshop, seeing how snackable fiction is pretty short. More genres could have been explored as well. Examples of how to write snackable fiction for various genres like short comedies or mysteries could have been featured to spice up the session. We felt that the key point behind snackable fiction should be its flexibility to fit the story, its mood, character and plot development, with regards to different themes. Whatever the writer may be craving.
On a whole, we really enjoyed being a part of this session and definitely walked out more than a little wiser in terms of our knowledge of writing. Being at Arena 1 of *Scape at Orchad at 10am in the morning definitely paid off!
About the Panellists
Pulp Toast is a joint publication by Singaporean and Malaysian writers. Also known as Roti Bakar. Find out more about them here.
All photos used in this article were obtained from the All In! Facebook page: