Exercises

Tiny tales.

“Small Tree” image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lydia Davis has a Man Booker Prize-winning ability to contract a story into its minutest form. And Ernest Hemingway, famous for his concise style, is oft credited with the following six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I think the value of very tiny tales is in their ability to slice through aspects of life incisively, to make big things small and vice versa.

This month’s challenge isn’t about writing six-word stories, but it is about writing small. It takes more effort–and is more addictive–than you might think.

Writing challenge #9: write smaller.

  1. Write a 200-word story. You can base it on anything, but it must be 200 words or less (not counting the title).
  2. Rewrite it in 100 words or less.
  3. Got it? Great! Now compact it–to 50 words.
  4. Ultimate challenge: Can you repackage it into the size of a tweet (140 characters or less)?

How did you go? Is the story you finished with the same as the one you first wrote? How has it changed?

Maybe you struggled to keep your tiny story to 200 words to start with. There is nothing wrong with that; your story might not have been destined for smallness. Remember to micro-size your thinking, for the purposes of this exercise.

Shrinking your stories can help you to pare unneeded words but can be tricky to achieve while keeping a sense of meaning and staying in touch with the magic that made the story tellworthy in the first place.

For more inspiration, take a look at 100 Word Story, 50-Word Stories, Yeah Write for its 42-word challenges, and Very Short Story for tweet-sized tales.

Have an excellent week,

Hannah.

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