A few years ago East Texas Writers Guild announced a short short story contest. The complete story could not exceed 150 words. The contest is blind—judges nor the moderator can identify the authors. It was a fun project.
I’m not very good writing short stories, let alone short SHORT stories. But the motivation to try was present.
Because I tend to be “wordy” in my writing, I really had to discipline myself to keep to the word count. Wow—tall order for me.
Grant Faulkner, executive director of the National Novel Writers Month and founder of the 100 Word Story, gives a brief account of his experiences in writing short short stories in the August issue of The Writer magazine. He relates how it helps discipline his writing by making every word count. It helps establish a rhythm to keep the pace interesting. He calls this type of writing “narrative haikus.” What a great way to describe it. You may recall, haiku must have exactly 17 syllables. Now that takes some thought. And self-control.
Faulkner notes that the author must direct the reader’s attention to the words that count because the “fluff” is not there. The reader is allowed to build his/her impressions. I like the way he describes shorts as “a flicker of light in the darkness….” Think of how much you can see in such a flash of light, and there, I believe, you have your story. Are you privied to all the detail contained in a room by a flash of light? Most assuredly not. But turn to a friend who may be accompanying you, and tell him what you saw. There’s your story. He may have a different perspective from his standpoint. I think that’s what a short short story can do. Therein lies the interest—and the challenge.
My contest entry was 148 words. Even though I didn’t garner a prize, I was able to contain the story within word limit. That was a victory worth celebrating.