One Hundred Words 101

Friday Fictioneers has become a staple on my blog. Creating a story using only 100 words has impacted my writing in ways I did not expect when I first discovered the group of talented writers led by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Now everything I write goes through a rigorous edit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’m often knee deep in chaff.

A photo is where the story begins, usually. There are times, however, when an idea that has been percolating in my mind mingles with the prompt in mysterious ways. The result ends up on the keyboard. I don’t question it. I just close my eyes and let it fly. Winging it is what we pantsters, as in fly by the seat of one’s pants, do best. There is no outline or structure, no discernable method to the madness that ensues when I am writing. That is why editing is an indispensable skill. The key most used on my laptop is the backspace, second only to delete.

I had a professor once who tried to instill, or was it impose, rules to be followed when writing anything. I resisted as much as my GPA would allow, but in the end, what she had tried so hard to get me to understand stuck with me. I use it, but probably not often enough. I’ll share it and you can decide for yourself if it is as easy as she made it seem.

Each idea must be supported by a sentence that answers one of three questions about the idea. How is it true? Why is it true? In what way is it true? The simplicity of this practice is deceptive because it can be difficult to admit that you are making a claim that cannot be supported.

I hate when that happens.

Today I did a lot of writing. I published a blog post. I wrote an article that will most likely never be published. I wrote two versions of a cover letter for my ongoing job search. A deluge of ideas caused me to work on several documents simultaneously. I could not separate my ideas fast enough to bother asking how or why or in what way any of them were true. As a consequence, I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening editing. Right in the middle of all of it, I had to stop myself so that I could start this post. It was nagging at me to be let out, like a sneeze that stings so bad it makes your eyes water.

That’s it. Be open to possibilities. Decide for yourself what is good and what isn’t. Let others help you along the way. Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. Know the rules. Know that you can bend the rules. Know that some rules aren’t worth the torment you feel obligated to endure for them. Know that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a summersault sometimes followed by a face plant. Have the courage to stare failure down and make it pay you back with interest. That’s how to write a story using only one hundred words.

Here is my story prompted by the prompt courtesy of Sarah Potter.

january-snowfall-nighttime
Copyright Sarah Potter

Since You’ve Been Gone

My mug is piping hot. I take out the biscotti, leaving one in the jar. “I’ll be back for you later,” I whisper. My heart flutters beneath layers of wool and flannel. The flashes are gone now, but the covers still end up on the floor. For old time’s sake I guess, when lava in my veins forced me to open a window. He hated that. The silence is louder than ever. I won’t miss being stuck in this place. The checklist, still on the kitchen counter, is incomplete. Perhaps I’ll have that last biscotti. Tomorrow might be too late.

*****

Lately my mood, and my writing, has been bluer than blue. I make no apologies. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading. I owe you all a debt of gratitude for the generous comments and thoughtful support.

47 thoughts on “One Hundred Words 101

  1. I’m living in a blue space with you, which (I hope) means we’re both in good company. I’m grateful to have you here with me… I have been toying with getting an MFA. I want to be challenged and make myself work on the writing; I want to learn for learning’s sake… I tell the kids I tutor, so often: education is wasted on youth. It so often is. You rock, for putting yourself out there and fighting the good fight. I’m rooting for you all the way! ❤ (And blue is a beautiful color… it's bound to bring new inspiration!)

  2. I wonder which rules to follow… I know the rules for flash are different than those of longer stories, actually I often write flash more like poetry. I try to add meaning in rhythm and linebreaks… I think reading a longer story like that would be tiresome… What really stuck out in your story was that list… as if there was a big decision that will change her… maybe better to stick with the biscotti.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of this, inclusive of comments and prologue! 😁 I’m outside and trying to make out the photo on my phone – pfft. Still, liking the words. The
    I haven’t contributed to Friday Fictioneers for quite a while, but still getting feeds from writers I’m following.
    Lovely words.

  4. Yes life is often a somersault followed by a face plant but I like to be please that at my advancing years I can still do a somersault. I felt your story deep in my soul.

  5. I loved your comment about writing rules, and in fact, the entire intro. I’m a pantser as well and don’t generally follow all the rules. Sometimes they impede the story.

    BTW – I had biscotti this morning too. My wife made an excellent batch yesterday with coconut and almond in it. Yum. 🙂

  6. I was pleased to read your introduction – and to read the follow up comments – as for teachering I see a minefield.

  7. I liked your intro and your 101-word story this week, Stephanie. For me, everything flowed together and made sense—one sentence supporting another in a stream-of-conscious narrative. Tough to pull off and a thing of beauty when done successfully.
    Ω

    1. I’m pleased that you liked it, Allan. There is another FF, C.E. Ayr, who writes lovely lines of narrative. I think he might have been dancing with my muse yesterday. Maybe I should slow down and float on that stream more often.

  8. Well, I am a reader of words and I believe if a writer writes such a prologue, it is because she has something to say. Man did you ever! I agree with you that FF has taught me how to trim, cut the fat, remove the useless. I sometimes want to go back to school to take writing classes. I may yet.
    That said, your story touched me in may ways. The silence is so very much louder in my house…

    1. Thanks, Dale. One of the most difficult things I have done to date was going back to school. The undisciplined me had experienced being run roughshod over by incompetent teachers and I was unprepared for the dedicated professionals I encountered. Still, it was surprising to me how much I did know and how empowering it was to learn that about myself.

      As for the story, last night my husband was away on business for the first time in a very long time, and without his heartbeat nearby, the silence was overwhelming.

      1. I had returned to school in hotel management and lasted two semester. Yes, the people teaching were in the business but no, besides two of them, none of them were good teachers! I was so discouraged.
        However, I know that if I go to University, the quality of the teaching will (should) be far superior.
        I wish mine was only gone for business…

        1. I would tend to agree about the expectation of teacher quality. I must say that wasn’t the case with all of the profs. Some were grad students with zero teaching or life experience. One even told me (in front of the class) that I intimidated him. Imagine that! Me, intimidating? One of my attitude issues, I call bullshit when I see it. Some people don’t like that.

  9. Your post sounds just the tiniest bit less sad than last week’s, but your 100 words are still heart-rending in their solitariness. Keep writing it out of your soul and things will improve. X

    1. I am the tiniest bit less frustrated than last week, so, I guess that’s why. The prompt goes where the prompt wants to go. I just follow. My soul appreciates your kind remark.

  10. Such a wonderful use of words in that story. I could really feel her loneliness and sadness.

    I know all about having wasted time at school, but it was mostly to do with feeling bored and unchallenged, so I turned to daydreaming instead, and writing stories (not the sort I could have handed in for homework!).

    Anyway, I agree with Rochelle that your 5,000 words were well worth reading, and they resonated with me, too.

  11. I simply read through your excellent prologue and then the beautiful story and then the matching comments. It seems there is a deluge of philosophical goodness flowing here and I can only think of myself as the intended beneficiary.

  12. Dearest StepHonie,

    I should gig you for the 5000 words you made me plod through to get to your magnificent story. 😉

    However, when it comes to an intro, the reader is free to skim over it, right? Of course right. I didn’t. It’s nice to know I’m not the only pantser. Backspace, delete and Ctrl C = Ctrl V are the most used functions on my keyboard. What did we do before those? I said all that to say that I’m glad I didn’t skim past your intro because it resonated with me.

    Personally, there are times I wish I could go back to college because I spent two years wasting at the KC Art Institute frittering away student loans that took ten years to pay off. And those literature classes I basically slept through and barely passed, how I wish I could take them over. On the other hand, writing and research have given me more of an education than I ever let myself receive in school. I laughed the other day when a former HS classmate who’s been reading my books said, “Rochelle has really done her homework.” I never heard those words in history class in school. 😀
    Jeesh…now I’m leaving a tome in place of a comment.

    Thank you for your spot on intro. I’m thinking of reblogging it if that meets with your approval.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    1. Dearest Word Counter,

      I’ll take a gig over a demerit any day. It’s funny that we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Taking opportunities and people for granted is such a common flaw. No matter how many cautionary tales we read (and write), there is still that tendency to think we’ll always have tomorrow. On the flip side, human behavior is so impulsive and impatient that advertisers know exactly which buttons to push to make us give up our hard earned money for fear that tomorrow will never come.

      Tomes of a feather stick together, like so much chaff. 😆

      Yours In Wordiness,

      Honie

  13. I like your 100 words, but it’s a sentence from your prologue that really resonated with me:
    ‘Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. ‘
    I’ve lost track of the times this simple sentence has come true in my life. I now believe that opportunities are knocking on the door all the time, but most of the time we aren’t interested, or think we ‘can’t’, or don’t recognize that what we do want may not be good for us. I’m trying to be more open-minded about opportunity in my older years. 😀

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