Redaction and Compression

Redaction and Compression

We have experienced (or not) several examples of redaction during the previous American Administration(s). Documents lost, withdrawn, changed or redacted. One fun way to experience this is to select a one paragraph piece (or any short short). If you need assistance, then use 100 Word Story, an online journal or Blink Ink. Print a copy of any piece.

Choose your own template- redact (black out) one word per line. Or every ten words, or every word that begins with F and S. (Make up your own ”key.”) The goal is to excise without thinking about how the words that are left will “read” or if they make sense (or not).

William Burroughs, known for his redaction techniques: “The only possible ethic is to do what one wants to do.”

Toni Morrison: “If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.”


Sarah Jane Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) has some brilliantly redacted pieces. Here is an example which appeared at Hayden’s Ferry Review (print issue) from the source, Two Serious Ladies:

And here is Amy Hempel’s one sentence “Housewife” from Biblioklept:

She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, “French film, French film.”

Stephen Hastings- King’s “Amelia”:

  1. Elsewhere, alone, stranded on an atoll, far, Amelia is being eaten by crabs. 
  2. When she crawled out of the water they turned in her direction and began to wait.  Every time she tries to sleep they come; legions of small armored things scuttle claws aloft across the purple sand as soon as she stops moving.

The presence or absence of a fire neither attracts nor repels. 

  1. Day follows night always the same: the sun, the three trees that provide no shade, the search for food and movement along the horizon, signals without reception and a dwindling supply of wood, then darkness, awake and waiting, day after day the same on this sand crescent nowhere visited by no-one except the fading famous aviator and an army of crabs.
  2. When she gives in, she dreams of aeroplanes speeding down brightly lit runways and flying over fields populated with rows of pastries, performing loops and barrel rolls in the air behind glass like fish in an aquarium.  Every plastic pilot sees another and gives the thumbs up; everyone’s grand adventure is cheered on by nuns and napoleons.
    When she gives in, she is a machine covered with small moving dials that emits transparent bursts of pain that dissolve immediately into the stasis of afternoon. 
  3. In the subsequent history of the atoll, Amelia is the name on a lighter among fragments of bone.