I started this newsletter — over two years ago now — in part because when it comes to stories the ones that I love the most are the little ones, the side-quests, the B-plots, the small moments, the low stake events. I want a monster of the week not whole season arcs. I want quiet introspections and the mundane, exacting details of someone’s life before it all turns upside down. I want that three-second note in a song where everything seems perfect; captured forever and played on repeat. I want the tiny narratives that often get missed.
I think we can all agree 2020’s main season arc was a pile of crap so I’m going to celebrate my personal top tiny narratives that I read, watched, listened to and played this year (if I can remember that far back):
The way Christine and the Queen sang, “If you disappear / then I’m disappearing too” in People I’ve Been Sad
Any time Baby Yoda reached for something in The Mandalorian. (because isn’t that all of us this year, straining to reach something, be that normalcy, a good work/life balance, our loved ones, the last loo roll on the supermarket shelf, everything feeling just out of our grasp?)
Every single dog or cat I have seen on Zoom
Anne Enright telling the Guardian, way back in April 2020 when we were still in the first confusing blast of lockdown, that when it came to creative work in lockdown not to worry too much: “In the middle of the messy non-event called your mid-afternoon, you might get something – a thought to jot down, a good paragraph, a piece of gossip to text a pal. Boredom is a productive state so long as you don’t let it go sour on you. Try not to confuse the urge to get something done with the idea that you are useless. Try not to confuse the urge to contact someone with the thought that you are unloved. Do the thing or don’t do it. Either is fine.”
This TikTok story about making friends with your neighbour in the opposite house while working from home.
My mum sending me her old butter knife for a birthday gift because she couldn’t find a new one, which made me miss her even more.
Sending voice notes on WhatsApp to faraway friends, but specifically, the moment my friend Sara and I both discovered you could swipe up to press the lock button when recording and capturing our surprise and delight at finding it.
In the game, Kentucky Route Zero figuring out how The Zero works and driving on it for the first time to navigate past signposts like “The Bottle”, “The Icosahedron” and “The Bat Wings” and following its strange dream logic to the next destination. I probably could have picked any moment in this game as it’s packed full of tiny narratives that swirl about without closure.
Michaela Coel’s author-character in I May Destroy You googling “how to write quickly” when on a deadline.
Hanging my head out the window to wave at my friend who had come to see me from the next street over, in the midst of early lockdown when I was feeling useless — shouting at her in the cold air warmed my soul.
Harry Styles’s echoing long final note as he sings, “And I get the feeling that you’ll never need me again” in Falling.
Jackie bringing me a cup of tea near my dissertation deadline, placing it down in the rubble of papers on my desk, kissing me on the head and leaving again.
And lastly this excellent thread of “folk games” that people have made up with what they have around them, which feel like epic sporting events in their own right. (click through for the full thread)
And thanks to you for reading and listening to this newsletter in what has been a very weird year full of weird and wonderful tiny narratives.
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If you have a tiny narrative to share please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org