Today is 5/5. The fifth day of the fifth month is the perfect day to celebrate one of writing’s newest genres: 55 Fiction.
It all started with a Fifty-Five Fiction Story Contest in 1987. The contest was the brainchild of Steve Moss, the editor of New Times, a San Luis Obispo, California newspaper.
Since the origin of his contest, Moss has published two books of stories: The World’s Shortest Stories and The World’s Shortest Stories of Love and Death.
As Moss explains in his introduction, 55-Fiction is a little like a one-minute episode of "The Twilight Zone," or "what O. Henry might have conjured up if he’d had only the back of a business card to write upon . . . ." Shakespeare said it best: "Brevity is the soul of wit," and in the 21st century, where sound bites compete for our limited attention span, 55-Fiction is the perfect form.
The keys to 55-Fiction are a good story, concise -- yet clear -- writing, and a denouement with a payoff. Surprise, irony, and/or laugh-out-loud humor are the hallmarks of the truly great short-short-short stories.
While 55-fiction is fun to read and write, these are not just frivolous throwaways. The writer of a good 55-Fiction piece must practice many of the key techniques of any good writer: story telling, clear diction, economy of language, careful revision, and thoughtful editing are all required.
Here are a couple attempts at 55-Fiction, written by the Word Daze staff:
It’s a dark, summer evening. Lightening strikes in the distance. Two young lovers rendezvous. She lies sleeping. He kisses her soft, yet strangely warm lips. He makes a toast to his love and drinks. As he swallows, his cell phone rings. He grabs it with a trembling hand. "Romeo! Stop! Listen! Juliet’s not really dead!!"
He shivered in the darkness. Long ago, there had been 12 in his pack, disappearing over time. Only he remained. Suddenly, a change; the light at the end of the tunnel was coming nearer. Giant hands grabbed him, pulling him towards the light. God, perhaps? Then, a voice: "Mom, we’re down to the last soda!"
Five Guidelines for Writing Fifty-Five:
1. Like any good story, these stories need a setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution.
2. Stories may be any genre: sci fi, romance, detective, horror, parody, etc.
3. Don’t try to write exactly 55 words on your first draft. Try to write a short short story on the first draft. Then, go back to revise and edit until you’re down to 55.
4. Humor, puns, and suspense are encouraged.
5. For more examples of 55 Fiction, go to the New Times web site.
Today’s Challenge: 55 Test Drive
You probably guessed today’s challenge. Write your own 55-word short story. Use the guidelines above to guide you along the way. If you can’t think of an original story, consider adapting something from classic literature, as in "Last Call."
Today’s Quote: Less is more. -- Andrea del Sarto