Image by KristinNador
Edgar Allan Poe famously wrote about the short story in his essay, The Philosophy of Composition. He highlighted the importance of one idea and the ability to consume the text in one sitting.
What with modern time’s insistence that everything is immediate and the pressure to absorb information at lightning speed, the parallels between Poe’s thoughts in the 1900s and the blogging of today is remarkably clear.
Each of Poe’s commandments imposed upon the short story can be used to explore it with regard to the technological future of this type of writing, as I am going to explain:
Thou Shalt Be Readable In One Sitting.
Whether it’s a blog post on parenting, the joys of the countryside or decadent descriptions of foodie heaven, the internet is home to millions of bite-sized nuggets of information that can easily be absorbed.
Information that is marketed in this way is accessible to all, even if Eliot’s Middlemarch has been propping the door open, unread for the past year.
Thou Shalt Worship The First Sentence.
Let’s face it, no one is going to commit to reading anything unless it promises to draw us in and leave us feeling amused, informed or emotionally affected. This is exactly why the first sentence counts.
We demand to know what we are reading about and why we should read it and like Poe’s stories, a successful blog post will grip us from the very start and continue to hold us until the very last word has been uttered – well, or read in our heads.
Thou Shalt Have No Other Designs.
Poe warned the short story writer of the perils of deviating from your design and the blog writer can also glean valuable advice from this presage. Promises of content about the future of the short story followed by an apricot flan recipe just won’t cut the mustard, now will it?
Thou Shalt Bear No False Witnesses Against Humankind.
Poe also argued that the short story must portray the ways in which people really act in ‘real life’. Despite many of his darker tales depicting improbable circumstances, it was really important to Poe that his characters reacted to these challenges with their human nature intact.
Similarly, blogging often addresses and questions real life situations and problems, probably even more so than the typical short story which is often a work of fiction. Like Poe’s tales, the content of a blog is relevant to the trials and tribulations of everyday life and the ways in which we react to these challenges.
Thou Shalt Use Your Imagination.
Like Poe’s tales, the circumstances or subject of the blog can be as dark or ridiculous as possible, it only matters that the reader can take something valuable from the reading experience. Gloss it, exaggerate, make it up, but it must remain true to human experience in order for the writing to be at all credible.
Honour Thy Father and Mother.
I daresay the father of the short story would be rather impressed with progress had he been around to witness it! Looking at the similarities of the short story and the blog, modern technology doesn’t seem to be changing the way we read and write irreconcilably.
Online bloggers are following in Poe’s footsteps whilst keeping up with contemporary culture by remaining relevant, gripping and imaginative. Opportunities to dip your toes into the creative pool are widely available online and you too can help to take the short story into the 21st Century!
Can you think of any more similarities or differences between the blog post and the short story? Post them in the comments box below!