I was having a bit of a tidy up of my writing files and came across a very short story I wrote a few years ago, which was shortlisted for the inaugural “Fish” Very Short Story Prize. If you don’t know about “Fish”, they’re an excellent organisation. They run writing competitions and the emerging writer can find lots of helpful information on their website, including these 8 rules for writing fiction by Kurt Vonnegut:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
ps: oh yes, and here’s the very short story that was shortlisted but didn’t win ;0)
The country lane was narrow. The lorry hurtled round the bend. The jogger
didn’t have a chance. Thud. Her body soared. Then. Crunch. Fragile bones
clattered against the hard road. Jane watched it all from the opposite side
of the lane.
The driver braked, jumped out of his cab. ‘I didn’t see her!’
‘You were going to fast,’ said Jane, barely audible.
‘Is she …?’
‘I don’t know.’ She stared at the girl’s mangled body.
‘My mobile’s in the cab.’ He hurried to get it. ‘I’ll phone an
Jane wanted to reach out, comfort the girl somehow but there was so
much blood. It glistened in ever widening ruby pools. It looked like her
own, but she always cleaned up afterwards. No tell-tale traces left behind
The driver reappeared. ‘They’re on their way.’
’It’s too late.’
‘You should have slowed down.’
‘Please–’ he grabbed her arm ‘–they’ll be here any minute. Don’t
tell. I’ll do anything, anything at all.’
That’s when Jane’s husband appeared. They’d been out walking earlier.
His idea. She’s made the mistake of speaking before being spoken to. He’d
flared up. She’d fled his tightening muscles. It had only been a matter of
time before he found her.
‘Where have you been?’ he growled.
‘There’s been an accident–’ Jane pointed to the girl.
‘Don’t tell,’ whispered the driver.
‘It was awful. She ran out in front of him. He had no chance! It was
her fault. All her fault.’