So I’ve been getting some great submissions for 3 Minute Heroes. Really great. But I still want more.
I’ve also been getting some interesting questions about it, which shows that people are curious, intrigued, yet suspicious. So I thought I’d address the why?s wherefore?s and wtf?s of 3 Minute Heroes. What’s it all about?
Well first of all, 3 Minutes – that’s a bit short, you might think. Why 3 Minutes?
First, here are some facts for you. The average length of a TV advert is 30 seconds. The average internet user spends less than one minute on a web page. The perfect length for a pop song is said to be 2.42 minutes.
Attention spans are getting shorter due to television viewing and browsing the internet. The classic estimate that an adult’s focussed attention span is around 20 minutes is now being revised to around 15.
Now I personally have a not bad attention span. Even so, I have found it very difficult to remain interested at author events, book and poetry readings and found that a requirement to read for 10-15 minutes (or more) can actually work against the reader in engaging their audience. And there is nothing that turns me off more than seeing someone supposedly promoting their work by reading it aloud – when they clearly haven’t prepared for it. Haven’t thought about their tone of voice, their pace or any of the other wee things that can make all the difference. What YOU don’t even rate it that highly that it deserves a good run-through beforehand? And you WROTE IT! Well it hardly inspires confidence that it’s going to be worthwhile reading it myself – does it?
Then there is the chemical state of you, the reader. When you are getting up in front of a crowd to read, it’s likely that you will get a little boost of adrenaline to help you through. How long does an adrenaline rush last on average? Exactly 3 minutes, 5 seconds and 2.314 milliseconds. Apparently. This is not a scholarly article but 3 minutes is enough time to enjoy your steadying, confidence boosting rush of adrenaline and know that you’re going to be up there, delivering the hot goods and then off again before you have time to panic. 3 Minute Heroes is designed for everyone – not just the experienced public speaker.
If you are of a nervous or bashful disposition, trust me when I say that it’s not hard to get through 3 minutes without even noticing.
The 3 Minute Heroes performances will take place without preamble or digression. There will be no introductions, no explanations and no thanking your mum afterwards. This kind of waffle definitely makes people switch off.
Reading your work well is something you can practice and refine, you can work on it and make it shiny. Having quality onstage banter and coming across well in unscripted explanations is much harder and takes a certain set of skills and experience to get right. Why would you want to prejudice your wonderful writing with all that baloney? Let the words speak for themselves, or else why have you gone to the trouble of writing them anyway?
This very weekend, the Festival International des Tres Court (International Festival of Very Short Films) is taking place in 72 cities. Having it’s origins in Paris, the festival screens films of less than 3 minutes, without title or credits. This is it’s 12th year and it looks to be getting bigger each time.
You can watch some of the very short films on their site and test your own attention span. See how much of an impact can be made in 3 minutes or less.
A piece that can be read comfortably in 3 minutes is around 500-600 words long. For fiction writers perhaps this would seem a little restrictive, but James Wood, literary critic at The New Yorker and author of How Fiction Works has some advice in this article about the shortest form of fiction. There are also some fantastic 3 minute stories on the page – check them out.
3 minutes is also a very good length for poetry – but don’t just take my word for it, ask Farrago London Poetry SLAM! – pioneers of pugelistic poetry in the UK.
So to summarise, 3 Minute Heroes is designed to keep the audience gripped, to challenge you to thoroughly prepare for your live reading and to really showcase what is important about writing today. It needs to be immediate, vital and stand on it’s own two feet, or however many feet it has.
Post script; Some other things that support the concept of 3 Minute Heroes.
3 is The Magic Number according to De La Soul.
You can make a chocolate cake in 3 minutes. True!
If you want to submit 500 words and be a 3 Minute Hero at our launch party on 20th of June in Glasgow, email firstname.lastname@example.org