“The Game” by Jack Holt
An exploration by Patty Ganzelli
The main idea of “The Game” is to present different perspectives to a single bizarre event and allow the reader to draw conclusions of their own. “The Game” is a set of four interconnected flash fiction pieces each containing a constraint of exactly 101 words. Each piece is told from the first-person point of view, and each has a different narrator, all unnamed.
The first narrator states that they had spoken to a man named Professor Runcorn about the “Pine Woods Incident,” which Runcorn describes as a meteorite crashing to earth and killing two unidentified persons in the woods. However, there are no records of any meteor even coming remotely close to the planet and therefore the police are launching an investigation.
The second narrator tells of the wind interfering with his chase, but it will be over soon as he has his prey cornered in the woods.
The third narrator is scared and hiding behind a tree in the woods, helpless as he knows his pursuer is watching him. He is wounded and trying to calm down and catch his breath when he hears a faint whistle that he knows is not coming from his pursuer.
Finally the fourth narrator is watching the others, and indeed has been watching them for a while. He has been orchestrating their chase, subtly manipulating the elements around them from a silent distance. He decides to bend the rules to his own game creatively, still keeping the facts rooted in “their science,” thereby ending the game.
The characterization of the narrators is very successful in this piece. The author managed to give each narrator their own voice through diction despite the constraint, thereby adding to the mystery of each character. Narrator #1 gives the impression of a television journalist who has just interviewed Professor Runcorn “regarding what has been coined the ‘Pine Woods Incident.’” While the majority of his section is told by Runcorn, the narrator’s identity is still clearly defined through two short sentences. Narrators #2 and #4 are similar in that they are both pursuing someone and are aware of their power, yet both still have distinct voices. Narrator #2 is angry and vengeful, calling his prey a “little bastard” and ready to “see him quickly ended.” Narrator #4 is written with a fulsome, superior tone, an “invisible, distant” god who is controlling the tiny mortals on his “orchestrated stage.” He speaks lazily of his victims, saying he may “fancy letting loose [his] more imaginative side today” and “accept the punishment later.” Narrator #3 also has a very unique voice: he is frightened and on the run. He speaks in short clipped sentences that mirror his anxiety. He is the only character that speaks of his own physical body: “I rest my trembling, bloodied hand upon my chest.” His attempt to calm himself by counting, then by breathing, and then counting again also reveals his character: he is much more frightened than even he knows. The author does a very successful job in creating differences between the characters.
“So occupied were they with each other, the real danger registered not even a frivolous wonder.”
This sentence stuck out to me the most. It is bone-chillingly ominous and beautifully written. It makes me think how anyone could be this narrator, watching us from an invisible distance and could easily blow us away and we would have no idea. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with other things and people that not even in our wildest dreams we are aware of any possible outside danger. The phrase “frivolous wonder” really stood out to me as well. The imagery is very beautiful and has an almost childlike, fantastical connotation. Without the word “frivolous,” this sentence would not nearly function as well. The author chose this word for a purpose: rather than writing something more sinister or a phrase like “not even a fleeting thought,” frivolous does give the sense of giddy playfulness. After all, the whole thing is a game.
Having a constraint for the number of words can be beneficial to a story as it causes you to choose your words more deliberately. Each sentence serves a function to both reveal character and progress the story. I tend to be wordy with my writing and this piece shows that less is more. I also think this story will help when writing about an event from different perspectives. It’s not necessary to recap the scene with every change of narrator; subtlety can work wonders. The success of this flash fiction will help a lot of other writers who are struggling with their stories. Not every micro/flash fiction needs to be only one sentence long. You can set your own constraints that will get the best results.