Short short stories

I want to finish with my topic Autiobio … because what I am really interested in is story telling. I thought of writing very short stories - up to 300 words - but that is really too short. Sanguinius hit the clavus on the caput when he warned me that 300 is not enough. My first effort is very unsatisfactory, but yesterday, while in a somewhat silly mood, I wrote a somewhat silly story of less than 600 words. I’ve condensed, trimmed and squeezed it as much as I can and am adding it on here. I would like to challenge anyone reading it to match it with a story of your own of no more than 600 words. Please let me hear from other story tellers!
First Catch Your Pig
Amin knew he had to do something really dramatic if he wanted to impress the family of the most beautiful young woman in the village. But Kesimatikititiri’s family laughed and scoffed at him. He hunted neither pigs nor sharks. He was a wimp, terrified of angry wild animals, and always avoiding hunting expeditions. Amin brooded, and decided that if he wanted to capture the affections of Titiri and the respect of her family he must capture a fierce wild boar, all by himself, alone and unaided by man or dog. He would consult his grandfather.
Kaliunavarustikimundo - for obvious reasons known to all as Mundo - was very old, and very wise, and well versed in the ways of the ancestors. He pondered Amin’s problem.
‘Hmm!,’ said Mundo. ‘There were no dogs in the old days, not until the white man brought them to the islands. But we caught many pigs - in traps!’
‘But traps don’t work any more,’ said Amin. ‘Not since the Little People made friends with the pigs!’
‘Yes!’ agreed Mundo. ‘Those Little People are a right bloody nuisance. Don’t worry. I’ll teach you how to make a strong trap, and how to defeat those moronic Little People too. I know their great weakness; they are absolutely lousy at arithmetic.’
Early one morning, a month later, Amin climbed high into the forested hills. He found an animal trail, well used by night prowling wild pigs. He built his trap, baited it with sweet potato tubers, and set the trigger. He prepared the trail leading into the trap, muttering the incantations taught to him by Mundo. It was late afternoon when he hurried back to the village.
On that pitch black moonless night the small herd of wild pigs snuffled their way along the trail. The little man perched on the back of the leading boar scanned ahead for any sign of danger. He could see as well in the darkest night as in the brightest day. As he made sure the pigs found the pieces of sweet potato and taro on the ground he saw something strange. He hopped down and picked up a cone shaped bottle stopper made from the folded and rolled leaf of the gurgur plant. The coastal people made these for the beer bottles they acquired in plenty from the white man’s plantation.
Having found one cone he searched for the other one, because the Little People did not believe in odd numbers. If there was one there had to be a second - but there were three, so there had to be a fourth. And then there were five! He found seven of the little cones and was going frantic searching for the eighth - which didn’t exist of course - when there was an almighty crash and a desperate squeal. The boar had entered the trap, the gate had closed and the deadfall of logs and rocks had come crashing down to crush the animal dead!
Amin laid the huge carcass of his prize at the feet of Titiri’s father, and Waisivambamtikibili addressed him formally, ‘Nagalkalaptikiamin,’ he said. ‘You have proved yourself a great hunter, and your magic has defeated those horrible Little People of the bush. I am pleased to know that you are fond of my daughter.’
From behind Bili’s back Titiri flashed a simpering smile at Amin, and he thought to himself, ‘Gotcha! Thanks Granddad!’

Short? Hemingway is supposed to have said "The shorter the better. Can you write a six-word story that would break someone’s heart? I can. Like this:

For sale: baby shoes. Never Worn.



Why ‘ouch’? Could it be that your emotional response has been tweaked and primed by…

…just as our Ernie primed his fellow gamblers, (if that particular snippet of ErnieHemLore, can be believed)? … never_worn
I asked my wife what she would make of an ad For sale: baby shoes. Never Worn. Without hesitation, her reply echoed my feelings after I’d subtracted the broken heart from the equation. "The baby never had a chance to wear them, because, it had received so many pairs as gifts at the time of its birth, that it outgrew most of them before needing them. You may as well say, “I’ve just written a story, here’s the first line, the rest is up to you.”

I don’t doubt for a second, that some sensitive individual reading an ad with just those six words, would assume the worst, and be, 'Heart broken", thereby validating Ernie’s claim … ‘someone’s heart’, but it’s a result that requires too much effort at scenario building by the heart broken, to be regarded as a creditable effort on the part of the author, our Ernie. I wouldn’t be surprised, if in a room full of ten people, three would be heart broken, four would wonder why, and three would see an opportunity to engage in commerce.

Too much ambiguity, does not a successful short story make … flash fiction or no!! :imp: Which is probably why I enjoyed Jon’s short story so much. :smiley:

[An old one, but I don’t think I’ve posted it before.]

Squirrel Man (470 words)

One time a small gray man, disguised as a squirrel, built a nest in a silver maple tree at the edge of a large city park. He planned to live on nuts, berries and occasional handouts of popcorn, Cheerio and other left-overs from generous residents of nearby houses.

His disguise did not fool other squirrels, but they, busily foraging on their own for nuts and other provender, and more adroit than he leaping from branch to wire to garage roof, paid him no attention.

Left to himself, he improvised squirrel behavior. He gathered nuts and berries and carried them back to the nest in his mouth. He was able in this manner to store a great many nuts, but berries squished, and trickled down his throat. They were gone before he could get them back to his nest. He resigned himself to a long winter with nothing to eat but nuts.

His hopes for popcorn, Cheerios and other leftovers were dashed by his own lack of self-confidence. He could not leap casually into a back yard among enticing scraps for fear of being detected. While still posing as a man, he had, once or twice, been spotted in back yards by housewives. Their behavior at such times had been distressful — screaming, calling husbands and sons, summoning police. Only his nimbleness through trees and over rooftops enabled him to escape trouble.

Still, he foraged on. Though less agile than other squirrels, he was bigger and stronger. He was able to gather many nuts through the course of a long and pleasant summer.

However, that day eventually came when, huddled in his tree, autumn’s first chill broke upon him. He noted in dismay that his body hair had not thickened as he hoped it would. He began to be afraid.

Fear, as you may know, does not affect men as it does animals. A frightened animal gives in to fear, and lets it dominate his body. The animal is therefore alert. All his senses are working at peak level.

But a man who is afraid will fight his fear. He will think about the situation, and thinking, as any animal will tell you, dulls the senses.
Thus dull of sense, the man did not recognize the approach of danger, did not notice that his fellow squirrels all had left, not now to be seen or heard.

Before he was fully aware of her presence, he was pounced upon by a pleasant widow lady named Ariadne, who, disguised as a cat, had been patrolling this park for several days.

Ariadne, considering her captive close up and in detail, determined that this gray squirrel would do nicely for her purposes. She took him home to feed herself and her two small children, which he did well and happily for many years.


As soon as I started reading this, I thought, "‘ere we go! This joker’s up t’ something 'ere!!

I should’ve known it’d end up unbridled lust and animalistic, gymnasticated fornication!! But t’s only wot we’ve come to expect from Phil Sheehan!
Nice one Phil :wink: :laughing:

The Ingenious Idea of Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri

For the twelfth time that day, Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri stood at the top of the staircase, wondering what had inspired him to make such a perilous and time-consuming ascent in the first place. He coughed into the side of his fist, wheezed a little, cursed his failing memory, and set off on his twelfth perilous descent.

When his left foot glanced the bullnose of the bottom stair, a thought occurred to Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri that promised to put an end to the wasted climbs that had blighted his life with increasing regularity in recent years. Indeed, the idea seemed to be so divinely given that Gregori thought it entirely fitting that the sun’s rays––filtering, on cue, through the stained-glass fanlight above the front door––should choose that very moment to shine eulogistically on his face.

Gregori chuckled approval to himself, and he determined that it would be only right for him to put his stroke of genius to the test immediately. He fumbled around in his pockets for a few moments, pulled his mobile phone out of its hiding place, and punched at the keyboard with his index finger…

‘Get boots. Clean them.’

When he was happy with the content of the message, and when he had congratulated himself several times on the foolproof nature of his plan, Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri tapped his own phone number into the dialler and then hit send.

‘Bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-bing, what a triumph,’ crooned Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri to himself, as he set off up the stairs in full knowledge that he would only have to glance at the next incoming message to be reminded as to why he had made yet another perilous and time-consuming ascent to the top of his staircase.

Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri lumbered upwards, climbing one step at a time: his stronger left foot first, then his weaker right foot next. After fourteen left-foot firsts and fourteen right-foot nexts, Gregori found himself standing at the top of the staircase, wondering what had inspired him to make such a perilous journey on this particular occasion. Troubled a little, and annoyed a lot, Gregori grumbled incoherently, berating his failing memory and wondering if there would be any merit in lingering longer in the hope of remembering why he had climbed the stairs at all.

‘Filthy, rotten, little grey cells. Rotten to the core, I tell you. Rotten to the rottenest core.’

Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri turned and looked down the staircase forlornly. Resigned to the impotency that his mind had forced upon him, he shuffled his right foot forward and swung it precariously off the landing and in the general direction of the top step. It was at this very moment that serendipity and digital telephony fell into the sweetest of embraces, and Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri’s mobile phone shrilled to announce the arrival of an incoming text message.

‘Bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-bing, what a triumph,’ crooned Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri to himself, as he suddenly remembered the foolproof ingenuity of his plan. ‘Bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-ding-a-ling-bing.’

Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri patted his body in search of his phone. He fumbled through the pockets of his cardigan, emptying out three paper tissues, a jeweller’s loupe, a handful of sweet wrappers, and the lid from a jar of pickles. From his trouser pockets, he produced one egg (plucked from the henhouse that morning for his breakfast, but forgotten, then uncooked, and left uneaten), a set of keys, six elastic bands, and the remnants of what had at one time probably been an edible treat.

When he had turned every single pocket inside out, and when the landing table was littered with the ephemera that had previously been strewn about his person, Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri looked forlornly down the stairs and allowed his eyes to follow the course of the sun’s rays that were still piercing the stained-glass fanlight above his front door.

A small halo of blueish light crossed the doormat and the parquet flooring in the hall, before it began its own ascent at the foot of the staircase. And there, at the end of the old oak balustrade, on top of the swirling old oak newel, Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri spied the glass front of his mobile phone, flashing with a distant heartbeat to show that it was in receipt of a new message.

Gregori Pillo-Pirrinporri coughed into the side of his fist, wheezed a little, cursed his failing memory, and set off on the day’s thirteenth perilous descent.

– The End – … rrinporri/

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I don’t remember ever saying 300 words wasn’t enough. I like reading and writing all lengths of micro fiction. I’ve put out pieces as small as 50. Like I said, though, these can be more difficult to write, as you have to condense so many things to get the story across in such a small space. I think my advice was more along the lines of “if you NEED more words, don’t limit yourself.” If you can do it in 300 or fewer, then by all means do so.

As for this piece, it’s very enjoyable.

Well, why did I start this topic? It’s driving me crazy trying to think of short stories. In my teens - over 60 years ago - I read a book of stories. I remember the name but not the writer. Here, in my own words, is the eseence of one of those stories. A Mars Bar for the first to tell me the name of the book and the name of the writer - I know he was famous.
Love at First Sight
Hill walking in Donegal and I stopped for lunch - an apple, crackers, and a chunk of hard cheese, washed down with a bottle of beer. I bit down on the last mouthful of cheese and a flash of the most awful pain seared my jaw. ‘Aww!’ The sweat sprang out on my forehead. I howled! Intense pain blanketed all other senses. I could barely see. I trembled. I could hardly stand. I staggered away, downhill, weeping, groaning, seeking the path I’d followed to get to the mountain.
Around the bend in the road - ‘Thank, God!’ - a tiny hamlet of a dozen cottages. I pounded on the first door I came to.
‘The Lord between us and all harm! What’s the matter with ye?’ The old lady at the door was aghast at the sight of me.
‘Tooth broken - pain terrible! Is there a car? Must get to town.’
‘No cars here, child,’ she said. ‘Come in. I’ve got aspirin.’
In the kitchen she put four little pills in my hand. ‘Any more?’ said I. ‘That’s it,’ she said and handed me a glass of water - ice cold!
‘There’s a dentist lives just beyond, a little cottage, isolated, on the hillside. He’s old and retired but he’ll help you.’
I thanked her, rushed out and staggered on, through the village, and saw the cottage on the hillside.
More door pounding produced a tiny, wizened old man, stooped and deaf.
‘Wha’? Wha’? Who’s it? Wha’ d’ye want?’
I bent over him, ‘Please!’ I cried. ‘Help me!’ And pointed to my red, swollen, tear stained face. ‘Ive broken a tooth!’
‘Come in! Come in!’ said he. ‘Let me see!’
In a high backed kitchen chair I opened my mouth wide, groaning as the cold air hit my tooth.
He poked his finger in my mouth.
‘Ye’ve a broken molar. Infected too. Probably an abscess. Ye should have it out.’
‘Yes! Yes please! Pull it out!’ I begged.
‘I can’t do that!’ he said. ‘No licence, no medicines, no anaesthetic.’
‘Please!’ I begged. I wept, moaned, my whole body suffused with pain. The little dentist fussed and dithered and gave in.
I squirmed and couldn’t keep still and almost bit his hand off as he reached into my mouth with the old pair of pincers he took from a drawer.
‘I’ll have to immobilise you!’ he cried. He found rope and tied down my legs and arms. With the belt from my trousers he strapped my head against the back of the chair.
‘We’ve got to keep your mouth open!’ He used a gadget that might have graced a medieval torture chamber to jam my jaws wide.
‘Now!’ cried the little man. ‘This’ll only take a minute. Relax!’
He leaned over me, reached in with his pincers and got a good grip on my tooth. He squeezed, pressed down, twisted and wrenched. I howled and squirmed, sweat pouring from me, blood and spittle filling my mouth, choking me, and the pain! Oh the agony! The blinding, awful agony!
‘Ugh!’ The little dentist loosed his grip on the pincers which fell from my mouth. ‘Ugh!’ he said, lurched and fell across my knees. My blurred teary gaze fell upon his lifeless form sprawled over my lap.
It was Saturday afternoon. Early on Monday the door opened. The morning light shining through her golden hair showed her to me as an angel from Heaven. The dentist’s granddaughter had come to see if he needed anything. It was love at first sight.

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Morning Jon, or evening where you are.

Nobody, especially aboard the Good Ship Scrivener, is expecting you to be churning out short stories. If it’s giving you headaches (or toothaches :laughing:), do what Leonardo da Vinci used t’ do. Walked away from his easel and went and stood on his balcony, overlooking the piazza and weighed up the talent below, strutting its stuff.
However, as far as Love at First Sight is concerned … another enjoyable read. :wink:
Take care

Thanks Vic - I’m in the South Pacific - a much storied place that gave great inspiration to Somerset Maugham many years ago. I’ll take a break from short stories for a short while. Writing them is very educational - it has shown me that I should be sparing with adjectives - they can overburden a story - and Hemingway - as pointed out by Sanguinius - had it right with his preference for short sentences. I enjoy having written more than actually writing - like the man who went about hitting himself on the head with a hammer. When asked why he said, ‘It’s so nice when I stop!’ Cheers!

I started reading a novel, a sort of detective story, which was written in short sentences, and by the end of the first page I was irritated and bored out of my mind by the tediousness of the writing, so I gave it up.

Hemingway may have written well in short sentences, but that doesn’t mean every aspiring writer can and promoting it just leads to the imitative sameness that drove me mad with that novel. Long live complex sentences and individual style!

Rant over.



I would would echo Mark/xiamenese’s sentiments to their final, fading, dying decibel!
Ernie Hem’s longest sentence is to be found in the underlying url : … ngway.html
scroll down to the “Longest Sentence” item. 400+ words. Then listen to an except from the novel at: … 1476787589
There’s a bit more involved there than just short sentences. Any well written piece of fiction, or non-fiction will contain short/intermediate/ long sentences, as and when required. That mix ensures the tale or thesis ‘flows’ melodiously, rather than subjecting the victim :blush: sorry! reader, to the staccato of a never ending drumroll
Unless you are a HAW, you can avoid verbosity and purple prose with impunity.

Take care Jon,
Remember, all things in moderation. :wink:

If this sentence had been the opening of any novel, I would, to paraphrase Mark, by the end of the first page be so irritated and bored out of my mind by the tediousness of the writing, so I’d give it up. But as Old Vic says:

Just not anything like the one Hemingway sentence he refers to. It’s atrocious.

Me too! That’s probably why Ernie’s supposed to prefer short sentences.
Approaching the debate from a simple, common sense perspective … don’t we all communicate with short/intermediate/long sentences? Why then, would we not wish to spin our tales in the same fashion.
The audio excerpt makes the point splendidly: … 1476787589 me thinks :wink:
Try this, just found it, searching for a more learned debate chamber, livingthewritelifeblog.wordpres … sentences/
:blush: ‘more learned debate chamber’, I meant more erudite than I am, not other contributors to the thread … sorry gang!

I just like short direct sentences - but one man’s goose is another man’s gander - with or without sauce - so let’s enjoy the wonderful mishmash of so many different ways of writing. I once read an awfully long sentence, with so many subordinate clauses, that ended with the world onions, repeated four times - and it all made perfect sense! I think it appears in The End of the World News, by Anthony Burgess. Can anyone confirm this? I am getting forgetful and a little muddle headed as I approach my hundreth birthday - only twenty years to go! It’s fun reading your comments. Cheers all!

Evening, young fella,

With! Definitely with. Risqué is good!! Go for it.

Which you use to good effect in, Love at First Sight. But, young fella, isn’t that, effect, enhanced by your use of other sentences of varying lengths? That, I think, is the essence of our kicking around the short vs long topic.

Don’t get me wrong, a well crafted short sentence, can have a far greater impact than a paragraph of other stuff.
When I questioned the wisdom of my wife’s devotion to the Goddess of Female Retail Therapy, and the prostrating of herself before that Goddess’ sacrificial alter, in the John Lewis Temple of Mammon, she gave me a look off such excoriating and eviscerating intensity, whilst informing me, “Ego emere, ergo sum.”
“I shop, therefore I am.”

Whether you sentences are three/four words long, or eight hundred thousand, three hundred and thirty seven, make sure you are enjoying! what you’re doing.
Ádh mór, Jon
Take care

It does, indeed. Didn’t listen to it at first, was afraid some poor voice artist had been forced to make sense of Papa’s 400+ meandering stream of un-consiousness. Suppose that the two examples, back-to-back proves that no-one is perfect, not even Hem.

When he is not perfect, that is. :smiley:


The writer you were recalling is Robert Graves. That story – set in Wales rather than Ireland – is Week-end at Cwm Tatws which is in his collection The Shout and other stories.

(And as an aside, Cwm Tatws, although perhaps sounding suitably welsh to the non-welsh speaker, can be roughly translated as Potato Valley. Google translate turns out ‘Valley potato’, because it doesn’t seem to understand english word order around nouns is not the same as welsh.)

The late British journalist Bernard Levin was as famous in the UK in his lifetime as, say, Walter Cronkite was in the US in his. But unlike Cronkite, Levin was primarily a newspaper journalist. And he was well-known for his long sentences, thinking nothing of adding up to forty subordinate clauses. He claimed: “Many a native of these islands, speaking English as to the manner born, has followed me trustingly into the labyrinth only to perish miserably trying to find the way out”.

Forty subordinate clauses were not however the summit of his achievements. This is from a 2004 obituary: “At one time he was in the Guinness Book of Records - with pride, he said - for ‘the longest sentence ever to appear in a newspaper. One thousand six hundred and sixty-seven words. Then some bugger in India wrote a sentence very considerably longer’.”

(He was also a contrarian. I once saw him him felled by a punch, live on a fondly-remembered Saturday-night David Frost show called “That Was The Week That Was”, because, it was said, he’d given the actress-wife of his assailant a poor theatre review.)