50-Word Mini-Stories: A Creative Writing Exercise
These Little Stories
Many years ago, the Daily Telegraph (a prominent, respected newspaper in the UK) ran a writing competition. Their challenge was to write a story in exactly 50 words: not one more and not one less. It's not easy to do, but it's an interesting exercise for any budding writer to try, concentrating the mind as it does on succinctness and clarity of writing. With just 50 words, there is no room at all for meandering or any unnecessary padding! Since then, the readers of many other publications have been invited to try their hand at similar writing formats, including the British Mensa magazine in which one of my efforts - 'What's an Alien?' - was published in 2010.
On this page I've showcased a few of my 50-word essays. Count the words if you like (some leeway was allowed for hyphenated words!). Some are intended to be serious comments on human nature, others are humorous, and one is just an attempt to get as many Beatles song titles as possible into a story.
"The Gambler's Sin"
Satan came in Gambler Wilson's dreams.
"Let's play High Card Wins."
“Untold riches if you win; your soul if you lose.”
Wilson considered, agreed, and drew an Ace.
Satan drew a Jack.
“I win!” said Wilson.
Satan smiled. “But playing with the Devil is unforgiveable. So you lose.”
"Strangers Home and Abroad"
“What shall we do on holiday?” Charlie asked Marge. “Trekking with Sherpas? Camping with the Berbers?”
“Kayaking with Inuits?” suggested Marge.
Charlie and Marge loved cultural adventure; meeting strangers, making friends.
“The house will be empty. Better tell the next door neighbour,” warned Charlie. “I wonder what his name is?”
With love, my mother gave birth and nurtured me.
With love, my girlfriend stared into my eyes, squealing "Yes!" to my proposal.
With love, my children laughed and squeezed my hand and needed me so much.
With love, my friends mourned my passing.
What love! The measure of my success.
"A Deadly Encounter With a Shower Unit Head"
To myopic eyes the shower unit head resembled a cobra, poised to strike.
Mistakenly he hit the cold tap—in January. The shower spat icy venom. Shrieking, he leapt with mongoose agility. One hand snaked towards the tap and turned rapidly.
In a second it was over.
He was safe.
"What's An Alien?"
An aggressive alien creature visited our planet.
It was ugly, with a big nose, pinkish hairy skin, and feet that smelled. It was frightened of us for no reason. It resented our differences. It laid claim to our planet.
This strange alien was an Earth Human.
It called me "alien."
"A True and Genuine Football (Soccer) Fan"
The fan really wanted to see a great game. But it was dull. One nil. His team’s striker dived in the box to claim an undeserved penalty. His goalkeeper sneakily handled outside the box. A midfielder broke an opponent’s leg. But the fan’s team won, so he went home happy.
An intelligent man spent his life studying, learning everything about everything.
A stupid man spent his life giving love, learning nothing.
The intelligent man died rich and famous - alone.
The stupid man died surrounded by friends.
The intelligent man knew nothing that mattered.
The stupid man knew all that mattered.
"The Faithful Companion"
“Daft old woman,” he cursed at the graveside, “squandering all that money on a stupid dog, instead of leaving it to her loved ones who could’ve used it.”
He left quickly when the rain fell.
The dog stayed by her grave until weak with hunger, pining for his lost mistress.
"Fun With the Beatles (17 Song Titles in 50 Words)"
“Hey Jude. Yesterday, your girl Michelle said she’s leaving home.
"Tell me why?"
“I’ve got a feeling it’s because you kissed another girl - Julia - the night before”.
“We can work it out”.
“Well, she loves you, and all you need is love. Get back with her.”
"An Old-Fashioned Long Distance Romance"
I awoke to a grey morning. My heart was heavy, my soul lifeless.
My lover writes each month. Today the letter finally arrived, so colour flooded my day. Emotions stirred my heart. Sparks revitalised my soul. I came alive.
A month now to fade to grey until my next awakening.
Maurice loved his computer and loved internet dating. Very thorough and logical, he spent months scoring every respondent out of one thousand, cross-referencing virtues and failings; writing hundreds of emails, analysing their replies. Sadly, he never had time to go out and meet anyone, so he married his computer instead.
What a task I’ve set myself! Fifty words! Now, twenty-six different letters in one sentence—that’s an easy thing to do; "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." But fifty words—no more, no less—that’s not so easy. I can’t do it! I give up! Sorry!
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