Taking the Challenge: Writing the Shortest, Short Stories

Updated on April 16, 2018
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes on various subjects including education and creative writing.

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What's Behind the Challenge?

A few words can tell a grand story. And, in the era of social media (such as Twitter), the shorter is better.

Lately, writing sites, chatroom and forums on the Internet have taken notice of this trend. Content writing sites -- such as Hubpages -- has a page for submitting flash fiction – a lean form of a short story that usually consist between 300 and 1000 words. Other online publications – especially those connected to traditional print media companies – offer contests for flash fictions or other shorter forms of narrative writing.

There’s also calls for submission for a yearly print publication, which publishes an anthology made up of what is entitled The World's Shortest Stories. These stories consists of 55 words or less (lately, the anthology is being published on the Internet). There are other publications that cull magazines and the Internet to print the "best short short stories" with 700 to 1000 word counts. These anthologies can be found at the local bookstores.

It’s not uncommon to see Facebook postings from these particular sites offering big monetary rewards for six-word, one paragraph, or one sentences stories. In the extreme cases, some sites call for one word story submissions.

Some of these sites, however, are click-baits; they’re enticing would-be writers to click on their sites and possibly get them to join a writing service or to sell them something. Still, for every click-bait site, there are several legitimate ones ready to print these micro-narratives.

Recently, a member on Hubpages challenged fellow Hubbers to write a five-sentence flash fiction story. With this challenge, as well as the ones mentioned on other Internet and print publications posting on Facebook -- this writer felt compelled to give them a try.

Presented here is a mini compilation of these micro-fictions. The stories presented vary in length and genre. Flash fiction is excluded; for starters, it’s actually too long for what’s being presented here (The shorter the merrier) and I have plenty of examples posted on this site.

The longest story in this collection is an example of the 55-word story. Afterward, a five sentence story to answer the challenge given by a fellow Hubber. And then, it will be finished off with offerings of several micro tales.

So, without further ado, let’s get started with this collection.

The 55 Word Story (Or Short-Short Story)

An image created by Getty Museum
An image created by Getty Museum

Fork in the Road

Kenji and his beleaguered family stood at the fork in the road. One road lead to Nagasaki while the other led to Hiroshima: two cities towns spared from bombings.

“Yes!” Kenji exclaimed.“No more bombings. No more city’s burning. Our war ends, no matter which road we travel.”

Jubilation swept through Kenji's war wary family.

A Five-Sentence Story

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An Apple a Day

Bernard Bell was told by his doctor that an apple a day will keep the doctors away. Being the type of person who hated doctors (including the one talking to him about apples), the notion festered in his head. Thus, Bernard came to a startling conclusion.

So, one day, he did something about it. He grabbed a bag of apples, fished out a few of them and chucked them at every doctor he saw on the street, in order to keep them away.

Stripped To Its Plot

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Another way to look at these stories is to strip them down to their most basic form. In many cases the beginning, middle, end – along with character development and establishment of the main conflict -- can be streamlined into a few words or sentences. Still, many of them work when it appeals to the reader’s prior knowledge of a topic and their ability to suspend their disbelief.

The following two stories are not only variations of each other, they’re retelling of a common stripped down tale educators like to use. It’s best known as “Boy Meet Girl”. Often, this story is used to teach students about plot. And each sentence is meant to represent each plot point (usually between three to five sentences per plot point.

Still, one can have a little fun with this concept and create their own short stories based from them.

Here are the two (and no, I wouldn’t dare use them to teach in a class):

Boy Meet Girl Variation 1

Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl, but she doesn’t notice him. Boy tries to get her attention, but girl still doesn’t notice. Finally, in desperation, boy plants a big, wet kiss on the girl and finally gets noticed by her! She files a restraining order.

Boy Meets Girl Variation 2

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl like one another. Boy kisses girl. Girl kisses back. Boy and girl get hot and heavy until…Boy discovers girl is also a boy.

One Sentence Story

Charlie’s Life

Charlie lived a safe life, yet when he died, his life-story was written as one brief sentence.

Conclusion

I didn’t bother to take the one-word story challenge. What’s the point? I can only imagine that it may be accomplished with interjections such as:

  • “Oh!”
  • “Ouch!”
  • “Yay!

In such case, a nifty title may elaborate on the story.

Simply put, character development, suspension of disbelief and the plotting is impossible if one can’t write as an allegory to a historical, religious or literary character or event within a title (and one can surmise, that those that call for submissions for such stories are more interested in the title for click-bait purposes-- i.e you create the title; they use if for marketing purposes).

But, can there be a story told without words? Not from me; however, there’s this:

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As a side note, this particular “story” – or poem – was published in a high school English textbook during the 1980s.

I remember a student discovered it while in class and started informing everyone about it. Most of the students turned to the page. A few who snickered at it while others pondered why this was published in the first place.

The teacher got wind of it and took a look at it (the story wasn't part of her curriculum).

"Take a close look it," she said after a moment of revelation. "How does it relate to the title? And do you remember the Hans Christian Anderson Story that the title alludes to? This is a powerful statement."

This example best exemplifies the short short stories. They can say so much with so little.

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These stories were not exactly easy to write. The first two had to have words removed or modified in order to fit the format. Also, trying to strip down a story to its most basic format was a matter of trial and error. Eventually, something compelling was created from the limited word counts and format.

And, once the appropriate words were found -- and the plot was in place -- it took only a few minutes to write them and get them published.

Ultimately, stories emerged from this challenge. And that's one reason it needed to be taken.

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© 2018 Dean Traylor

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    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 9 days ago from Riga, Latvia

      Most interesting. I have seen many variations among them 15-word stories. I think that some poems that are short if written right can also read like short stories.

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 10 days ago from Raleigh

      Thanks for the article, Dean. Short, short stories is something that I am going to have to check more into.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 11 days ago from Hyderabad, India

      Great stories and a good article on writing short stories.

      You have explained it all so beautifully and entertainingly.

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