Thursday, November 17, 2005

World's Shortest Stories

This morning I am treating myself to some fun little writing exercises, namely I have finally sat down and tried my hand at a 55 word short story ala Steve Moss' s The World's Shortest Stories. Ms. M. told me about this idea--short, short stories or sometimes called nanofiction--last year or the year before. I have had Moss's little book on my shelf for quite a while. Today, my last day of being 30 years-old, seemed like a good time to try my hand.

I prepared my morning coffee and reread the rules for the game in the back of the book. I won't bore you with an account of all the rules, basically the story must be 55 words (or less, but why less?) excluding the title, which can only be up to 7 words. Numbers (42, for example) count as a word. It has to be a story: characters, conflict and resolution (not to mention setting).

You must have a clear focus, a sharp idea. Once I got my first little story going, I quickly had over 100 words--yikes! Then I whittled and carved and threw articles out the door until I ended up with something that delighted me. Beware: I literally just penned this short, short story this very morning and so it is very rawish:

Poet Wields Metaphor

“Honey, where is the extra salt?” he implored from his study.

“Kitchen, second shelf,” she mumbled and ratcheted up the TV’s sound.

“Butcher knife—the good one?”

“Bottom drawer, inside the leather box, but what on earth for?”

“Salt and a razor edge: the stuff of poetry, my love. I’ll just open your mind, finally.”

by J.K.Kelley

This first attempt was such a good time that I wrote two more, but with less zing I think:

Wifely Duties

“Mrs. Wiggenstein, it’s about your husband.”

“Come in, and let’s talk inside. Tea?”

Too late she regretted her neighborly impulse. The Mrs. hustled her through the door and shoved her down the basement steps.

This one worried Mrs. Wiggenstein. Reginald had forgotten to fix that broken step, it seemed. She must increase his medication again.

by J.K.Kelley

And finally this last one seems pretty bad, but here goes:

Spare Some Change, Mister?

Two goddesses patrolled Newbury Street, swiveling their hips toward likely suitors.

One goddess slapped a young man. He cried out, but she left him there, a sniveling mess.

The other goddess smirked. “Tightfisted, couldn’t spare a few coins. Boys mistake confusion for suffering.”

They continued to beg down the street, one mortal at a time.

by J.K.Kelley

Here a few I have copied from Moss's book (he is the editor) to give you an idea of his collection:

Bedtime Story

"Careful, honey, it's loaded, "he said, re-entering the bedroom.

Her back rested against the headboard.

"This for your wife?"

"No. Too chancy. I'm hiring a professional."

"How about me?"

He smirked. "Cute. But who'd be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?"

She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel.

"Your wife."

by Jeffrey Whitmore


He'll never hold me as he holds that guitar. Hasn't touched me that way in years.

I'll get inside the guitar, to be in his arms again.

She spent all day, sacrificing shape, voice, everything but desire to be held. Finally inside, mute, invisible, she waited.

"Honey, I'm home! I bought a new guitar! Honey...?"

by John M. Daniel

I Want to Report An Accident

"Celia, it's all your fault. You'll find my bloated body in the pool. Farewell. Umberto."

She stumbled out, the note in her fist, and saw me, floating face down, like a giant fly marooned in Jell-O.

When she leapt to rescue me, and remembered she couldn't swim, I got out.

--Convict 338412

by Tom Ford

The Ordeal

She hated them! All of them! Their masks hid not their glee, as their groping hands held her down--for him.

The pain and the blood were unbearable. Still, he persisted, forcing her.

Her screams only encouraged him. She knew not to deliver meant certain death.

Finally, satisfied, he said, "It's a boy."

by Tom McGrane


T.L. Holmes said...

J. you under-estimate your attempts at the 55 word story--they are quite print worthy. Send them in I say!

J. D. Casnig said...

I responded to your inquiry at The Metaphor Observatory, J.K., but didn't hear back from you, so I'd thought perhaps you wanted my reply here. So here it is, intact...

I like the title, but would be cautious of the implication - that is, that the knife is wielded and is a butcher knife implies its use on others, rather than the self. If you wish to imply that you will create a wound in the reader, then rub salt in the wound, then the title is perfect, in my opinion.

I once wrote an angry piece called "Nothing Rots In Hollywood", which would pit your knife metaphor as weapon, and a depressing piece called "The King of Inking" which would pit your knife as (self-inflicted) introspect. Should you wish the latter implication, the closest thing I can think of to a "knife" that also has an implied use on oneself is a "razor" or "razorblade", but its destructive use on oneself has suicidal connotations.

I'd really like to hear about what you decided on and why you chose it.

John, (The Metaphor Observatory)