“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The word describes itself. Minimalism, in essence, is describing the most, in the least words possible. The art of literary minimalism seeded around 1960s and 1970s, a result of the then ongoing meta-fiction trend. It was brought to center-stage through the guiding hands of authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver and Ann Beattie.


An example of such writing would be like this:


Unabridged – I yearned for a break, so I stood up and walked over to the coffee machine. Grabbing a cup of coffee, I walked back to my desk, to find out that someone had turned on the fan above my desk.

Minimalist – I took a coffee break. Walking back to my desk, I heard the fan.

Here, the emotion of yearning has been toned down to almost nothing as the character simply ‘takes a break’. Turning on the fan can be written as ‘hearing the fan’. This relies on the reader’s sense of logic, as hearing the fan will be related to it being turned on.

Some pointers:

  • Show, don’t tell (version XTREME)– Rather than describing what goes on in a character’s mind before or during a scene, take them directly there and show what the character is doing to let them interpret for themselves in the context..
  • Stop the flowering– Try consciously avoiding adjectives and adverbs between action especially eloquent or exclusive ones. Let your atmosphere and character movement do the job for you.
  • The Art of omission– While you’re plotting your storyline, leave intentional gaps in the your sequence, character motives, etc for the reader to fill into later or as they read. At the same time, try not being too vague or giving away too less to judge.
  • Experiment with the language– Since you’re already putting much of the weight on the writer, you can play with syntax, intended typographical errors or line/ paragraph breaks or their shaping (especially with poems).

The exercise

Since we’re high on minimalism this time, we shall write 2 stories of not more than 3 pages (in size 12!)

For making one’s content concise, What can be possibly followed is the 2+2+1 method which involves plotting your story within not more than 2 settings, 2 main characters and 1 continuous action.


Write 2 poems in around/less than 20-25 words

For concise content, follow the method of object/person+action where you only allow one object or person in your piece and what happens to/by them.


Any combination of the above 2 options

And for the extra time you find, here are some one word poems to trip on…

  • apocatastasis (Allen Ginsberg)
  • borken (Keith Abbott)
  • cerealism (Fletcher Copp)
  • cosmicpolitan (Morty Sklar)
  • embooshed (Cinda Wormley)
  • gulp (Pat Paulsen)
  • Joyce (Andrei Codrescu)
  • meeeeeeeeeeeeee (Duane Ackerson)
  • puppylust (P.J. Casteel)

“Little Things” by Raymond Carver

Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water.

Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the

backyard. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But

it was getting dark on the inside too.

He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the


I’m glad you’re leaving! I’m glad you’re leaving! s

he said. Do you hear?

He kept on putting his things into the suitcase.

Son of a *****! I’m so glad you’re leaving! She beg

an to cry. You can’t even

look me in the face, can you?

Then she noticed the baby’s picture on the bed and

picked it up.

He looked at her and she wiped her eyes and stared

at him before turning and

going back to the living room.

Bring that back, he said.

Just get your things and get out, she said.

He did not answer. He fastened the suitcase, put on his coat, looked around

the bedroom before turning off the light. Then he went out to the living room.

She stood in the doorway of the little kitchen, holding the baby.

I want the baby, he said.

Are you crazy?

No, but I want the baby. I’ll get someone to come by for his things.

You’re not touching this baby, she said.

The baby had begun to cry and she uncovered the blanket from around his


Oh, oh, she said, looking at the baby.

He moved toward her.

For God’s sake! she said. She took a step back into

the kitchen.

I want the baby.

Get out of here!

She turned and tried to hold the baby over in a cor

ner behind the stove.

But he came up. He reached across the stove and tightened his hands on the


Let go of him, he said.

Get away, get away! she cried.

The baby was red-faced and screaming. In the scuffle they knocked down a

flowerpot that hung behind the stove.

He crowded her into the wall then, trying to break

her grip. He held onto the

baby and pushed with all his weight.

Let go of him, he said.

Don’t, she said. You’re hurting the baby, she said.

I’m not hurting the baby, he said.

The kitchen window gave no light. In the near-dark

he worked on her fisted

fingers with one hand and with the other hand he gripped the screaming baby

up under an arm near the shoulder.

She felt her fingers being forced open. She felt the baby going from her.

No! she screamed just as her hands came loose.

She would have it, this baby. She grabbed for the b

aby’s other arm. She

caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.

But he would not let go. He felt the baby slipping

out of his hands and he

pulled back very hard.

In this manner, the issue was decided.

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white



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