tagHow ToHow To Write a Fifty-Word Story

How To Write a Fifty-Word Story


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Copyright Oggbashan May 2006

The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

This essay includes works of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.

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How to write a fifty-word story for Literotica.

1. Basics.

It seems so simple.

All you have to do is write a story that is fifty words long. No more. No less.

The title, which should not be long, is not included in the fifty words but any title longer than a couple of words wouldn't be in the spirit of a fifty word story.

However, Literotica has a minimum word limit of 750 words. This means that to submit a fifty word story you would have to write fifteen fifty-word stories to post as one submission.

Writing one fifty-word story is fairly easy. Fifteen of them is more of a challenge.

Even a fifty-word story needs a plot to work effectively. The plot must be very simple and direct. Boy meets girl is a good choice. There is little space for development into conflict and resolution.

It is a good idea to include a twist in the last sentence, to take the reader's expectation of the ending and turn it around.

2. Mechanics.

2.1. The first draft

A fifty word story is easier built up from fewer words than cut down from more. Writing a one hundred word story and reducing it to fifty is probably harder than starting with thirty words or so and building to fifty.

Here is an example, starting from thirty:

"I looked between my fingers. It was huge. There was no way I could mount that. I turned to run away. He caught me and swung me – to the horse's back."

That is thirty words. It is the basis for a fifty-word story. It isn't perfect. The misdirection needs to be enhanced. If the word 'swung' is changed to 'lifted' and the sentence with 'mount' changed to something apparently more sexual, perhaps like this:

"I looked between my fingers. It was huge. It must hurt to spread myself that wide. I turned to run away. He caught me and lifted me – to the horse's back."

That is now thirty-one words. There is still room for improvement. The repeat of 'me' in the last sentence is awkward. There are nineteen words left to add more to the story.

If you can, the easiest way is to write something very close to the fifty words as the first draft. This would become easier with practice. By the time you have written a fifteen times fifty-word submission you should have a reasonable idea of what would be fifty words, and what would not.

2.2. Word count

I copy and paste the draft into a Word document I have called 'fiftycheck' and then use 'tools' to count the number of words after each draft or revision. I delete the counted document and return to the draft to adjust if necessary.

I count the words up to twenty times before the draft is completed. Using Word is much easier than counting on the screen.

2.3. Editing

Once you are happy with the draft it is a good idea to leave it for a day or two while working on something else, perhaps another one of the fifteen fifty-word stories you have to produce to meet the 750 word minimum.

Look at the story you have written. With so few words it is important that every word is there because it has to be. Could that word be replaced with something stronger? Could that phrase be deleted and replaced with a couple of words, leaving a few words to use elsewhere?

Editing a fifty-word story is similar to editing a poem. Perhaps a fifty-word story IS a poem.

I'll use a couple of my first five fifty word stories to show editing in practice. They are in my Poetry as 'Fifty Word Fantasies'. I submitted them as 'poetry' because I only wrote five = 250 words plus the 15 words of titles, not enough for the 750 word minimum.

Example 1.

"Fifty Word Facesit

I struggle vainly, bound by her bra and pantyhose. She straddles

my legs, slides up my body. White panties flash, her grey skirt

covers me in scented darkness. Warm damp cotton brushes my nose,

covers mouth. Her legs wrap my head, pulling my face deep. "Pay

rise now!" she insists."

The title is not great. I included 'Fifty-Word' in all the titles of this set because the format was not familiar to most Literotica readers. The title is an essential part of the format and can be used for the twist. 'Facesit' doesn't really convey much that isn't in the fifty words. 'The Secretary' would reduce the impact of the twist. 'Negotiation' might be better.

The first completed version was in the past tense – 'struggled', 'straddled' etc. Changing the tense to present made the action appear faster and was easy to do because the word count was unchanged.

'warm damp' originally applied to 'darkness' and 'scented' to 'cotton'. I'm not convinced that the change was necessary. 'her grey skirt covers me in warm damp darkness. Scented cotton brushes my nose...' might actually be better than the posted version.

The first draft was a few words short. The added words were 'White', 'grey' and 'cotton' to emphasise the formal office wear. Adjectives and adverbs need to be used sparingly in this format and every one must be there for a purpose. Changing even one of them can have a considerable impact. If I had written 'impotently' instead of 'vainly' as the third word the whole story might have been about encouraging a reluctant erection and celebrating her success in the last sentence.

Example 2

"Fifty Word Femdom

Her black-booted foot pressed my chest. Cautiously I looked up her

leather-corseted body to the stern face. I winced as the lash trailed

across my shuddering skin. "Beg forgiveness, slave!" she ordered.

Helpless, I cringed as she frowned at my bound body. Then she winked.

The pantomime rehearsal was going well."

The title is weak. 'Femdom' doesn't really convey anything. 'Submission' would have been slightly better.

'leather-corseted' shows how to bend the rules of fifty words. Hyphenated words count as one word. I suppose it might be easier to write fifty-word stories in German by making long compound words like 'tightly-laced-black-leather-corset-wearing-woman'.

'pantomime' is a poor choice of word. It didn't help that in the posted story spelled it wrong as 'pantomine'. Pantomime in the UK means a specific family entertainment at Christmas spiced with double-entendres and innuendo that follows traditional lines with female principal boys, cross-dressed Dames with coarse wit and most of all, audience participation. "Oh yes they do! Oh no they don't!"

The image of pantomime is strong but limited to those who know exactly what I intended. Writing for Literotica, with an international audience, I should have used imagery with a more universal application.

This story might also have been improved by changing the tense to present. Even altering 'winked' to 'winks' and 'was' in the last sentence to 'is' might be worthwhile to point the twist.


Example 3

"Fifty Word Scarfing

Her interesting neighbour was noisily drunk every Saturday. She

acted. She opened her door, pulled in, pushed him in her deep

settee. He reached out. She scarfed his wrists. He protested. She

scarfed his mouth, tied legs. She stripped him slowly and scarfed

tightly. Now he is interested in her."

This one plays on the meanings of 'interesting' and 'interested' with a double-entendre for 'in her'. It is obviously intended for those who like scarf bondage or have a fetish for scarves. It has only a limited appeal and therefore is not a good submission for Literotica. The whole thing needs recasting to make it more mainstream. The first two sentences could lead into her saving him from something and to him recognising the woman, he had previously ignored, as an attractive partner. It would then be a completely different story. Whether it could be written in fifty words? Perhaps.


3. Story Ideas/Plots

If you have difficulty finding story ideas or thinking of plots, then fifty-word stories will be hard work. One submission will use fifteen plot lines.

If you have no idea how some authors produce so many stories, avoid fifty-word stories. You could use a lifetime's ideas in one submission.

If you have more ideas than time to write them, fifteen short stories will relieve the pressure and let you concentrate on writing longer stories with more involved plots.

4. Recommendations

If you think that you could write fifty-word stories then try. It may turn out to be no more than the writing exercise that is the usual reason for fifty-word stories. Even so, the effort might help you with normal length work, showing that complex sentences and extended metaphors are not essential to convey a mood, a location or a story development.

The hard part is to move from writing one fifty-word story to writing fifteen. You may learn and practise the technique but there is likely to be a point at which you run out of steam. It may be the fifth, the eighth or the twelfth story. If you are really stuck, save the file and leave it for a couple of days, weeks, months or until you have a story you KNOW will fit into fifty-words.

If you can't get beyond one or two stories, post them as poetry.

When you feel comfortable with the format there are other possibilities. You could write a set of fifty-word stories as a themed contest entry. You could write fifteen stories around the same characters as fifteen episodes in their relationship. You could even write fifteen fifty-word 'How To's.

Og isn't the only person capable of writing fifty-word stories. Any author should be capable of attempting them. Have a go. Good Luck!

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