The Short Story As Pop Song

ANALYZING THE SHORT STORY FORM

OUR CURRENT feature story, “True Survivor” by Greg Jenkins, is a good example of how a short story can be artistically successful by following– unintentionally or not– techniques used to find success in the music business.

Foremost among them is the story’s opening, which does two things done by the famed British pop group the Beatles and others in order to stand out from the musical crowd.

1.) THE ATTENTION-GETTER

First, the attention-getting first note. First done by Ludwig van Beethoven to open his Third Symphony. A more recent example is the opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title song to the Beatles’ first film. Think of how it must’ve sounded coming from large speakers in a movie theater, accompanied on a giant screen by an image of the four young musicians being chased down a Liverpool street. Attention: caught.

Greg Jenkins does the same thing with his story’s opening sentence, consisting of a single word, each letter capitalized: “SULLIVAN!”

2.) START WITH THE CHORUS

The second technique used by the Beatles was to in effect start the story with the chorus. Or, if it were fiction, in the middle of the narrative. Like opening in the middle of a song.

A famous example of this is one of the rock group’s first hits, “She Loves You.”

Which ensures opening with a bang. The Beatles did this again at least one other time, with similar success, with “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

What’s the goal? To grab the listener– or reader– by the collar, lift the person out of his or her chair and not let go until the artistic experience is over. Part of the creation of Beatlemania involved hitting the record buyer with immediate energy.

With a different art form, Greg Jenkins starts his story in the middle of the action, then goes back to explain what led to the conflict. (Jack London does the same thing with his classic short story, “Lost Face.”)

MORE POP

The most extreme musical example of this technique came a bit later in the frenzied history of the so-called British Invasion of America, in 1965, when Herman’s Hermits had a Number One hit by eliminating a song’s verses altogether– to a 1911 music hall ditty, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am”– and singing only the chorus, repeated three times. The result was not exactly artistic, but it was effective with the intended audience.

Could this be done with the short story– taking technique one step beyond? Stripping down a tale to its barest essentials and depending upon pure pop energy and enthusiasm to carry it?

We don’t know, but in our New Pop Lit LABS we’re not above trying every trick possible in our quest to reinvent literary forms, and in so doing enliven literature itself.

We also look for writers, like Greg Jenkins, who use innovative techniques. Know any others? Send them our way!

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Why Change?

WHY CHANGE THE SHORT STORY ART?

THE ATTITUDE throughout the literary world is that our stories are very good no one could do better so why change anything?

Yet art like everything in nature needs to adapt, mutate, change.

The Rolling Stones

THERE ARE scores of bands today who can do anything the Rolling Stones did– in presentation, posturing, music– likely better, but the Stones got there first. Or almost first. Early enough.

Bob-Dylan

Hundreds, maybe thousands of wannabe folk singers can sing and play the guitar as well or better than Bob Dylan ever did– some even write as well– yet Bob Zimmerman got there before them.

ABBA_-_TopPop_1974_1

Dozens of singers in groups and bands can blend their voices as well as did the 70’s Swedish pop act ABBA. But ABBA did that kind of thing before them.
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Here’s a photo of an ABBA sound-alike group from California, Music Go Music. They’re pretty good. Ever hear of them?

music go music****

MEANWHILE, there are at least a hundred rock bands out there influenced by– and sounding and looking very much like– the classic rock band Led Zeppelin. Most prominent among them is Greta Van Fleet, which won the 2019 Grammy for Best Rock Band. (You know rock lost its cred and impetus when they created a Grammy category for it. Tamed and neutered.) Here’s a photo of the band:

greta van fleet

What, are we back in the 1970’s? This is not called reinventing an art form, or even renewing it. It’s called recycling something which lost steam more than twenty years ago. It’s art going through the motions– staying alive in a culture, but barely. On life support. (The situation “Literature” has been in for decades.)
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THERE ARE EVEN today painters who can paint just like Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh (if not with quite their amount of passion and soul), but when those two artists came onto the scene no one was painting like they were painting.

We remember the pioneers, the innovators, the creators-not-regurgitators, in any field.

WHAT are we asking of short story writers?

We’re asking them to be prepared to scrap their current beliefs on how to write, to be ready to radically alter their present modes of writing– to be willing to change the way they view the art, because one way or another, from this corner or another, artistic change IS coming.

postcard-big-pop-11-page-001

Not “Literature.” Instead: POP LIT.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS