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09/04/2019

how to write a 500 word story???

QUESTION
how to write a 500 word story???
i am used to writing long stories, and i attempted to write a 500 word story, but it ended up too long… when i took out some details, it didn’t make sense….HELP!

ANSWER
One reason why I think it’s hard to write short stories (I don’t even try!) is that we as a culture seem to value the “Great American Novel” and not so much the “Great American Short Story,” much less the “Great American 500-Word Essay.” Because of this, we aren’t really taught many short stories in high school or beyond other than the occasional “Rose for Emily” or anything by Poe, which are all longer than 500 words! The key, I think, to writing something well is to be able to read authors who have written well in the form you’re trying to imitate, more or less. One website I often read is called “Brevity” and it showcases pieces of creative nonfiction (which could be called fiction by some people). The rules are that you cannot write an essay or story more than 750 words long. This website has a number of “famous” authors contributing to it, so you can read through and see how they do it. What do they focus on? How do they structure their pieces? What do they leave out that you would normally include in a story, and why? For example, here is a piece from their site:

The Way Fire Talks to Wood
By Christine Boyka Kluge

In front of me in line, a man hisses at a woman. I can’t distinguish all of the words, but the words don’t matter; his voice crackles and stings. He talks to her the way fire talks to wood.

She stands perfectly still, unflinching. She makes no eye contact, but I see her head sink lower between her shoulders. I feel her heart constrict. I picture Queen Anne’s lace in November, a singed claw still defiant at the edge of the road. A frail fist clenched in the hard place between sun and frost. Silence. Her hand flutters to her throat. Her eyes are red-rimmed coals. This is the way wood answers fire.

When he turns and catches me staring, he shrugs, offering me a closed-mouth smile and a wink. He dramatically wraps both arms around her neck, pulls her close. Repelled, I’m still relieved by his abrupt playfulness. Then I realize that he’s holding her exactly the way lightning embraces a sapling, enfolding leafless limbs in its crooked gold arms. Hollowing a scorched place at its core.

It’s short. It uses description, and it doesn’t get bogged down in too many details. You don’t need to know who the narrator is or what the background to the story is. You don’t need to know what they are waiting around for. The important thing is the interaction between this man and woman. There are many, many more stories on this website. Check it out and see if it “inspires” you to write a 500-word masterpiece. 🙂