What Can We Steal from Kevin Catalano’s “Royalty”?

Title of Work and its Form: “Royalty,” short story
Author: Kevin Catalano
Date of Work: 2013
Where the Work Can Be Found:  The very short story was published by 100 word story.  You can find the piece right here.

Bonuses:  Here‘s a cool story of his that appeared in PANK.  Here‘s an appropriately short essay in which Mr. Catalano discusses flash fiction.

Element of Craft We’re Stealing: Choice of Form

Discussion:
“Royalty” is a 100-word story about Queenie Ladd, a young woman who finds her “lot” with Big Paul King, manager of a fried chicken joint.  He cheats on her and treats her poorly, but Queenie endures it all because there must be some kind of serendipity in the union of their names.

Just like a ballplayer with two men in scoring position in a tie ballgame, Mr. Catalano doesn’t try to do too much.  This is a 100-word story and he simply can’t cram War and Peace into a story of that length.  Instead, he does all of the fundamentals: protagonist, antagonist, a clear setting, stuff happens and we have an idea of what will happen to the characters.  This is NOT easy to do in a 100-word story.  Every sentence…every word must count!

I don’t know exactly how Mr. Catalano conceived his story, but he has matched the size of his idea to the length of the piece.  Why would a woman stay with a bad man?  Well, in this case, the woman finds some kind of magic in the way their names looked on their wedding license.  (That’s as good a reason as any, I suppose.)  The story is, in a way, a delivery vehicle for the very cool final image.  Mr. Catalano establishes a fairly common situation (a person falls for a bad partner) and immediately hits you with the reason why she stays.

What Should We Steal?

  • Focus on the fundamentals.  Stories require a protagonist with a clear purpose and they require stuff to happen.  The characters should change or be illuminated by the events of the story.
  • Match the size of your ideas to the length of your piece.  A large painting requires a large canvas.  Smaller paintings may require a smaller canvas, even though you still have to do a lot of work on them.

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