If you dare, write short-shorts

Today is Friday and that means that at some point in the next 21 hours, I’m going to write 55 words which contain an entire story. I’m not that big on memes but this one (“55 Fiction Fridays”) is precious to me, because it reminds me of writing exercises and workshops and english minor-y goodness. Por ejemplo:

She nervously adjusted her sari, hoping no one noticed. So far, the night had gone flawlessly; she had made a good impression on everyone, she could just tell.

The older woman at the table noted how silk was tugged upwards. Taking a delicate sip of tea, she thought, “She’s not good enough for our family.”

I’ve consistently written one of these uber-short shorts for weeks now, but last week was the first time a fellow mutineer noticed. Abhi’s interest in the concept of nanofiction made me ponder the possibility that some of YOU would find it fascinating as well. If I further needed to justify making a mutiny out of it, know this: the good Professor Guest Blogger himself reads my “55″ and I am aware of this because he referenced one at the last NYC meetup. Not that I need to defend it or anything… ;)

Flash fiction, also called sudden fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction or short-short fiction, is a class of short story of limited word length. Definitions differ but is generally accepted that flash fiction stories are at most 200 to 1000 words in length. Ernest Hemingway wrote a six-word flash: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Traditional short stories are 2,000 to 10,000 words in length.[wiki]

That Hemingway example is ridiculously inspiring. One day I want to write a short that short. I don’t even know if there is a name for a short so short. There is, however, a name for the type of writing this meme encourages:

One type of flash fiction is the short story with an exact word count. An example is 55 Fiction or Nanofiction. These are complete stories, with at least one character and a discernible plot, exactly 55 words long.[wiki]

The virus is spreading throughout the brown blogosphere. SM readers Maisnon, Andrea and Chai are the three whom I go out of my way to check on (hee! no pressure, kids!), but if you decide to try it, please leave a link to your work of art in the comments. I’ll be happy if you flash me. :)

111 thoughts on “If you dare, write short-shorts

  1. Though he tried to give them hope (idealism) past shortcomings of the world, he wasnÂ’t surprised that of all his sweathogs, only BarbarinoÂ’s chiseled jaw, and wicked-ass dance numbers moved him to fame, fortune andÂ…. scientology. He wished he had taught they must labour to be beautiful.

    Saddened, he thought, ‘it should have been Horshack’.

  2. Transported back to 1951, the thought of making money by betting on cricket matches yet to happen was for some strange reason furthest from my mind, which should give you a sense of just how at home I felt with the whole affair. But then: “I wish she’d married either Kabir or Amit. . .”


  3. Paranoid Android – you’re so good you scare me.

    My one above was my first btw. But this whole thread is really inspirational.

  4. In the summer afternoon quiet, he helped the Ashramites collect the white cotton towels drying on the line. Bathing with his clothes on today, out on the mossy stones next to the well, with the rest, he had missed being perfectly naked in her tub with the door closed to the world outside, with her.


    I’m addicted to reading these, guys. I was even inspired to write one all by meself. Good stuff!

  5. The three Asians crowded to one side of the stage. Everything smelled like shit. SomeoneÂ’s cellphone rang in the audience. The two Jews in their tattered clothes looked confused. The Asians shuffled closer.
    One by one they knelt down and held out labelled paper bags and said, “We have seen his star in the East.”

  6. If there’s anyone from whom I would have expected this it would have been my brother, she thought, staring in shock at her blood freshly splattered on the wall above her bed.

  7. There they sat staring at eachother. Never have they seen eachother the way they intend to. They had lived two separate lives in two different worlds. She had never imagined this time and he had never planned it. The girl never expected the guy who she has seen clean gutters to be a father.

  8. June in Delhi. Sweltering heat in Chandini Chowk.

    “Bhai Saheb, Is there a public lavatory nearby?’

    “This way, Sir. Twenty step next to the pan shop”

    “Shukria jeee.”

    Half running, half walking. What the hell is this? What didnÂ’t I think when I left home.

    “Scooter Rickshaw, Janpath Road, please.”

    “No meter. 200 Rupees.”


  9. Does anyone else think “Who writes short-shorts?” would have been a better name for this post?

    Nope. Stop second guessing the title and start writing your short (or reading or commenting upon the shorts).

  10. How do you want it, long or short? Those are the only options sheÂ’ll ever give. As long itÂ’s a forgery, I canÂ’t afford the real thing, is what I tell her. ThatÂ’s the only beauty here, in this small town, the hairdresser, who goes about her work without ever looking me in the eyes.

  11. Luke hung onto the pylon, the wind howling around him.

    “Obi Wan never told you about your real father”, growled Vader.

    “I know what happened”, shouted Luke. “You killed him !”

    “Yes”, said Vader. “Because Obi Wan was your father.”

    Luke tried to remember the stories of the prequels, and thought, Damn…..That does explain everything.

  12. Alex, it’s a play off the old Nair tv spots, which were based on the *very* old Royal Teens song… thus, I have no problem with a double-whammy reference. Gold star for Anna :)

    Touché…I thought I missed something.

  13. Alex,

    If it’ll make you feel any better, I thought it was a reference to the “We like short-shorts !” gag from The Simpsons….

  14. Jai – loved the Star Wars short!!

    As the seconds hand slowly, yet certainly, went creeking around her twenty-dollar Target watch, she peered into the wasteland of another week gone by – and wondered why time flies like an arrow. “Ah yes, I know,” she said, “as fruit flies like a banana.”

  15. Hit the gas, engine screams. Wishing it was just a dream. Watch the highway lines move in heartbeat time.

    Can’t take back what was said. Can’t believe everything that youÂ’ve read. Can’t undo what has been done.

    What they got, they deserved. Right the wrong, Justice served. They never saw you reach for the gun.

  16. He was being hurtled through the long corridor. The lights turned on, off, on, off. The ceiling alternated between darkness and a blue tinge that he found haunting. How he wished he had listened to her, he thought as they turned into the room. 6 gunshot wounds. The nurses looked down at him with compassion.

  17. Transported back to 1951, the thought of making money by betting on cricket matches yet to happen was for some strange reason furthest from my mind, which should give you a sense of just how at home I felt with the whole affair. But then: “I wish she’d married either Kabir or Amit. . .”

    Umair, I would have reacted like SuitableGirl to your Suitable Boy reference too. But then, men don’t do that.

    And, thank you Ang.

  18. He hadn’t seen her in so long, he couldn’t wait to hold her. The door creaked open, he stiffened, his heart racing. He saw her move softly in the cold air. When she saw him by the dumpster she screamed in terror. The door slammed shut and the alleyway was plunged into darkness again.

  19. Space. What a cold empty word. She didnÂ’t actually want to talk to him, she wanted to not be not talking to him, if that made any sense. The denial and uncertainty that came with it drove her crazy. My love is as constant as the Northern Star, she said, why was his so fickle?

  20. Puppy, she called him, because of his constant need for affection and his playful nature. But now she was busy, and had no time to even throw him a bone.

  21. Shilpa — Thanks for the compliment.

    My last one for today:

    Raj hesitated in the hallway. Five years since they’d last met.

    Natasha stared at him, amused at his inability to maintain eye-contact; left hand resting on her hip, skirt stretched tight.

    Dammit, thought Raj, and stepped forward, closing the door behind him. Natasha inclined her head, and smiled slowly, broadly, as her wedding ring glinted.

  22. This is very interesting stuff to come home and read. Chiefly because of what one can learn about the Sepia clientele. Jai go to the bottom of the class for getting Star Wars dialogue wrong. Paranoid Android – amazing stuff. OK now for my attempt…

  23. “Not yet!”

    His lungs drowned with each scream. Soon he felt his head being sucked under. Kicking and punching, he refused to go quietly, “you’re not taking me without a fight!”

    Too late. His time had come. After what seemed like an eternity of darkness, finally he was cold.

    “It’s a boy!” shrieked the midwife.

  24. The subway lurched to a stop, the voice on the speaker inaudible as usual. SamÂ’s head bobbed, and then jerked, a moment of panic. Did she miss her stop? No, it was safe, she could keep sleeping for ten minutes more. Eyelids fluttered, she dreamt of 55 word stories.

  25. Feed a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will be out of your hair for weekends on end.

    At least, thatÂ’s what my mom used to say with a smile every time my father stepped out the door, tackle box in hand.

  26. He recalled the moonless night when the goddess came to him with her alabaster skin, and recalled her pride and his longing, her every touch an honor. He turned to look at the burning city behind him. On the road, now strewn with ash and charred bodies, he felt his son grow tired under him.

  27. Buy one, get one free

    She cried aloud, ‘ThreeÂ’s such a crowd, let’s call this group-date quits !! That brazen guy, that rascal sly is staring at my bits!!’

    ‘When?’ says Ma, ‘This Boy’s a star ! ‘The Boy ?’ She says ‘Oh rather, I speak not of him, I’m not so prim I speak of his dear Father’

  28. All this stuff blows me away!

    And Sepia, great job. Have been a great fan of the Website since I chanced upon it, while researching for an article.

    It was on Desi kids and the concept of spelling bees. I felt strangely compelled to write the story, and your Website provided an interesting anti-bee viewpoint.

  29. Ok, mine’s lame, but I wanted to join the party:

    “OK, almost done. Better?” F T O M Z became a smudge. “Or worse?”


    “Ok. Well, your right eye is 20/125, but your left eye is actually 15/20.”

    For a moment he wondered if he could be the guy that singlehandedly brought back the monocle, but ultimately, he went with the wire-rimmed Kenneth Coles.

  30. You’re singing my life with your words.

    Thank you for making my afternoon!

    PS I would second making “Flash Fiction Fridays” a weekly event!

  31. When I arrived here, she was far past the midnight of her birth.SheÂ’d done it all these 33 years into ripe maturity. – teenage idealism, torrential adolescent squabbles with her siblings, romances with revolutionaries. Like her, we mid-lifeÂ’s children learnt the value of a stable bank balance and grew too wary to fall in love.

  32. He was reminded of why he attended writer’s workshops in random people’s houses.

    In the midst of belabored descriptions of the view from one’s window, through yawn-inducing recollections of dates gone horribly wrong, there would appear one or two bright polished gems of prose.

    A feeling, a captured moment, crystallized and distilled into pure poetry.

  33. I explained the diagnosis, the off-handed way it was issued, how three other women at my office had heard the same thing, how statistically impossible it was, how the drugs turned people into zombies.

    “You should take the meds anyway,” he said. “To help us.”

    He wanted me to be unupsettable. Ass.

    We were through.

  34. From my favorite Poet…….

    All you who sleep tonight Far from the ones you love No hands to left or right And emptiness above

    Know that the whole world shares your tears…. Some for two nights or one Some for all their years.

  35. Skater-BoiÂ… that might be fun, he said to the self in the mirror, busy brushing teeth. Vans, wallet-chain, floppy haircut-

    Ok… 60s mod? Vespa, skinny tie, leggy blonde girlfriend, bangsÂ…

    Plaid Carhartt carpenter? Mohawk’d punk?

    Eh, it didn’t matter. Nuanihal shrugged as he re-wrapped his turban, tied on his shoes, and walked out the door.

  36. Time for the WAR ON TERROR!

    Asif surveyed the interrogation room as Detective Francis of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism squad bumbled in. Francis was searching in his case, “Sorry, I seem to have misplaced my list of secret Al Qaeda officials.”

    Asif spoke up, “oh it’s okay, I’ve got one” and pulled a piece of paper out from his sock.

    “A ha! Gotcha!”

    Lastly, one more on the blog, that I thought was a bit too messed up to put on SM.

  37. They announced the road was closed until dawn. The merchant ladies barely complained. They spread shawls on the pavement and within minutes several were snoring.

    The driverÂ’s assistant wandered off to get high with a teenage soldier.

    I let a man sell me tepid beer and chicken kebabs. The war wasnÂ’t starting tonight, maybe ever.

  38. Anna, what a fun excercise!…I had to do one too!

    I knew the moment was perfect. The flowers and tulle intertwined with lights created a wistful scene. Adoring faces crooned their necks to catch a glimpse of beauty, while a man with adoring eyes waited to begin his future. The string quartet struck the first note, and I stepped aside, giving the bride her cue.

  39. Got an email titled “World’s Shortest and Best Fairy Tale”. I had to add a few words to make it 55 long.

    Bed time son!

    No Papa, tell me another story!

    No time!

    A real short one please?

    Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl “Will you marry me?” The girl said, “NO!” And the guy lived happily ever after and went fishing and hunting a lot and drank beer whenever he wanted. THE END

  40. Sex changes things, his mother had warned him. “Balderdash!” he responded at the time. But she had been right, and now his heart was broken.

    He resolved to arrange his marriage next week with a girl from India, whose honour was pure and unblemished. No more white girls for him.

  41. Both the marriage and the wedding were designed to please everyone but her.

    Their families eagerly watched the pundit read the prayers.

    She was a dutiful daughter and would do what her family wanted.

    Secretly, she plotted to make her husbandÂ’s life as hellish as hers had always been.