Hey there gangsters.
To TLG, micro fiction or microlit is the most inspiring. It gives much perspective on how we tell stories but also from the perspective of the story teller and how we see things. It helps us understand the reasons why fiction is relative and important.
When I first I began writing 100 word stories, not only did I write more, I also learned how to edit my work well.
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!
Next, 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 to use use literary devices. Metaphors are more popular 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. Why 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 a new truth, or the pun of a joke; you need to give your audience a perspective or knowledge that they didn’t have 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 thrive on.
When you first begin to write, don’t think about the 100 word limit. Just follow your character and see where they take you; pretend they have grabbed your hand and led you off on a small adventure to show you something they have discovered. Some of my 100 word stories started at around a thousand 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 literary gangster weeding out the weak and innocent adverbs in anecdotes. A common find is a sentence that doubles up or over-describes (I just did it for you then!). 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, 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 could 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 the practice helped improve my editing skills and saved 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:
- Have an IDEA!
- Tell us what happens: PLOT
- Ask, how have I told set the scene/described the character? LITERARY DEVICES
- What does the audience learn from my 100 word story? ENDING/PERSPECTIVE
- 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 for writing development. Happy writing!
Don’t say I never do nothin’ for ya.