Sunday, March 1, 2020

No Way I can SHRINK my Story into 100 Words!

By Bacopa Literary Review Short-Short Fiction editor Kaye Linden

Cutting a 1000 or 750-word story to 100 words is a lesson in bare bones writing. Why shrink a story down to its essential storyline?

The process offers significant awareness in the art and process of discovery. When honing a story to its foundation, writers will not only realize the essential storyline of a longer work, but might find infractions of other story elements; for example, inconsistencies in point of view (whose story is it?), benefits of past versus present tense, overuse of to be verbs, excessive dialogue or screaming dialogue tags, and the use of too many characters or their names. If a story appears awkward, rambling, disappointing, confusing, or needs rewriting, then shrinking is the way to go. (PS: this works for novels, as well!)

The first step in this process, of course, is to write the initial story without judgment or editing. This uncensored experience of rambling might intimidate new writers and challenge the experienced to allow wordiness.

In the second step of the process, the writer cuts the story from 750 words to 250 words, then reads the 250-word version to others to hear where the story might benefit from a rewrite. In my class, students offer positive feedback to help identify areas for improvement.

The third step in the process, cutting to 100 words, challenges writers the most. They do not want to get rid of their favorite lines or characters. Their egos begin to shout. Grimaces and moans appear out of nowhere. If willing, this is where writers will learn the most about clarity. The experience is a freeing, mindful lesson in letting go and regrouping. If the piece of work reads as confusing in 100 words, then the story essence needs a rework.

The fourth step in the process is to rethink and expand back out to a 750-word story. The contrast in skillful techniques after this "write of passage" is inspiring. The students in my class take six weeks to complete this process while workshopping each step. The catharsis, the celebration, the liberation is extraordinary.

Kaye Linden
35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story 

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