I thought I might share with my gangster fans how to write a 100 word story so you can practice your gangster editing skills 🙂
First let me tell you that the reason I began writing 100 word stories was because I had too many ideas and I needed to get them out of my head! As a result, I not only became gangster at writing 100 word stories, but learned how to be real gangster at editing my own work.
The thing is, the writing is the easy part, it is the editing that can be difficult 🙂
Every story starts with an idea. For me, this idea comes in the form of an image. It could be an observation from the street or on public transport, it could be an image stuck to your mind from a dream the night before, it could come as a character you know or even wished you knew! But just have one idea, it doesn’t need to be complex.
Next thing is that you need to tell what happens in the story, it is a story after all and so a plot, though miniature, is vital. Go for simple yet effective.
The technique to short stories is that while you tell what is happening, you are also using literary devices to describe your character and setting. Metaphors are popular, more than the simile, as it means less word count and more punch. For example
, “his eyes were lamps.” From this we know that his eyes are bright and staring. We wouldn’t bother wasting time with “His eyes were as bright as lamps” when we have got a word count to stick to!
The end will have a punch to it, whether it is the shock of truth or new learnings, or the pun of a joke, but you need to give your audience a perspective or knowledge that they didn’t have, know or realise before reading your story. There will be a feeling associated with this too: sad, happy, scared, strong etc. Perspective is key in short stories, the new angle you show is what people enjoy. The reason short stories work is because we get caught up in the small things in our daily lives and this causes us to get stressed and then we forget to see things from the point of view of someone else.
When you first begin to write, don’t think about the 100 words. Just follow your character and see where they take you, pretend they have grabbed your hand an led you off on a small adventure or to show you something they have discovered. Some of my 100 word stories started at around a thousand to twelve hundred words, don’t stress about it just write 🙂
Once you have introduced the idea on to the page, you have told what happens and you have an ending, you can begin editing. You need to go through your writing and hack at it as though it were an invasive weed. You will slice and dice anything that is not important to tell your story. You are a gangster weeding out the weak and innocent adverbs in anecdotes. A common finding is to double up or over describe (just did it then for you!). For example, I will often write something like, “he stood in the doorway holding a mug of tea with hips leaning on the inside of the door frame”. In this example, it would be much clearer and much more concise to say, “he was holding a mug of tea, his hips leaning on the door frame.” That saves us six words but still gives us the same idea. Ask yourself once you have taken it out, read it and ask your self, does the story still make sense and achieve its purpose? If so, leave it out!
Also, is it important that I mentioned the tea? Why didn’t I say coffee? Why did I mention it at all. This is the use of symbolism: to me, tea is calming so my the audience can assume that this character is calm, that they weren’t appearing in the doorway aggressively. If there was no tea I would be scared that a character from a Stephen king novel had come to visit me and start creating some nightmare material. If it was coffee, maybe the scene would change to a work space rather than a home or other more relaxed atmosphere. All of this counts! But the good thing is, that you didn’t need to say that the character felt calm, we knew this because he is drinking tea and leaning casually against a door frame. Let your imagination run wild! Make your audience look for meaning. Each story is a picture with a puzzle or riddle in it that the audience needs to solve.
The first time I wrote a 100 word story, I re wrote the entire story fifteen times. By the seventh 100 word story, it would take me no more three rewrites. Put in the hard work at first and it will come easy to you later. The best part is that these skills are transferable to larger scale writing!
More than anything, 100 word stories are a great way to practice writing. They are a great way to have fun and take risks with your writing, to try and test new ideas, new styles, new methods. What I found was that by writing one story every morning before work, and coming home and editing it after work, the practice and exercise helped improve my editing skills and helped save me a lot of time by speeding up the process of writing and editing. You start to form better habits, especially when what you write now means time wasted later in editing. You become better at killing your darlings, or letting go of ideas that you may love but that don’t fit a particular story. And those ideas, can often be recycled and used for a different story!
So just to recap:
1. Have an IDEA!
2. Tell us what happens: PLOT
3. Ask, how have I told set the scene/described the character? LITERARY DEVICES
4. What does the audience learn from my 100 word story? ENDING
5. How many times did I re write it until it was 100 words?/ Do I really need that to tell the same story? EDIT
I hope this has helped you understand why writing the 100 word story is not just fun but important and if you have any that you would like to share on TLG, just email me and I will organise a post for you 🙂
Get crackin’ gangsters!