WRITING: The Charm and Challenge of the Under-500-Word Story

One of the exercises in Creative Writing as I remember it was to write a story, cut it down to 600 words, then again in half to 300. 

I sputtered and sulked. A writer has barely set the stage, just touched on the characters, hinted at conflicts within that limited space, I argued. Shall we not let the reader see the newly ironed crisp curtains blow in the breeze of the open window that lets in the scent of the lilacs?

The answer is, of course, no. Not unless the lilac bush is holding a gun or its branches are spotted with bloodstains or it can sing Ave Maria backwards in perfect pitch.

I’m finding my stride with the under 500-word story. It can hold a lifetime because a lifetime is merely a repetition of moments sometimes shattered by change. Whatever those moments, there is either expected or unexpected reaction and that, my friends, is all there is to a story.

Then again, sometimes there is reason for more; and anyplace from the six-word-story of Hemingway to the giant 1000 pages of some great historical tome makes a story. It all depends on the time, the tone, the writer, the reader, the medium, and the next thing waiting to be written or read.

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3 Responses to WRITING: The Charm and Challenge of the Under-500-Word Story

  1. Dean says:

    I think that writing flash has done more for my writing than anything. It is possible to write a complete story in a very small space, but as it gets smaller and smaller it approaches poetry in the level of meaning.

    The tighter a story is, the more sweat per word. And I think it’s the word/sweat ratio that makes you learn the most.

  2. susan says:

    Hi there Dean! Miss you on Anacronyms–if you’re back, please let me know!

    Hey, if you’re interested in joining a great group online, check out http://fictionaut.com and let me know if you’d like to join. There’s some wonderful storywriting there, some great connections to be made, and inspiration up the kazoo!

  3. Dean says:

    Yes, I’m back. (At home with a cold right now, but back!)

    I will check out fictionaut right now.

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