What’s the shortest story you’ve ever read?
This week’s challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community was a doozy. I needed to shave my shrinking story, Mudslide, down to 9 words! (It’s already gone from 297 to 99 to 59.) Not only that, but I was required to write an emotion into the story.
A 9-word emotional story? “Nein!” I insisted furiously. But since I don’t speak German, I ignored my outrage and took up the challenge, using the following 9-step program:
- I told myself I could do it. (Critical step!)
- I made a first draft and thought I was done:
SLIMDUDE’s call had turned Rachel’s life into a MUDSLIDE.
- I re-read the rules and smacked myself in the forehead. “You forgot!” I scolded myself. “The challenge was to write two stories, and they each need to include an emotion!”
- I then wrote this version (emotion shown in brackets):
SLIMDUDE’s call turned Rachel’s life into a disappointing MUDSLIDE. [disappointed]
I could see now that, by comparison, my first emotionless version was pretty boring.
- I rewrote the sentence using a second emotion:
SLIMDUDE’s call pushed Rachel’s life down a disgusting MUDSLIDE. [disgusted]
I couldn’t stop there.
- I changed it again:
SLIMDUDE’s devastating call swept Rachel away in a MUDSLIDE. [devastated]
- I tried making it even more emotional:
SLIMDUDE’s haunting call hurled Rachel down an infinite MUDSLIDE. [terrorized]
- Then, just for fun, I rearranged the structure and ended up with:
Rachel was shocked by SLIMDUDE’s call. Welcome to MUDSLIDE! [shocked]
- I took 9 minutes to reflect on how many different ways there are to write a 9-word story, and how important emotion is in writing.
I wonder if anyone’s ever written a 9-word novel. Just think of the trees that could have been saved by editing War and Peace down to these 9 words:
“War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Peace.”