I’m starting to reach the limits of my strict 200-word policy. This story hit about 225 words and still had massive legs before I went back and cut some of it out. As it is, I’m not sure I told enough for this to truly count as a story rather than a fraction of a scene. The change in attitude feels too sudden; I didn’t develop the character of Shirley enough to justify the reversal. So much more I could have, and should have, done with this story if I hadn’t been artificially constraining myself.

Now that I’ve gotten a week of 200-word stories under my belt, I may start at least considering to stray away from that convention and just make it “at least 200 words per story.” Then again, forcing myself to be economical with my word choice is a valuable skill in and of itself. We’ll see which way I go. And the beauty of it is, I can change it at any time.

Fending For Herself

 “Why don’t you come over here?” the man with the crooked nose said. Shirley shied away from him and the gnarled outstretched hand beckoning her. “I have something for you.”

 Shirley’s father stood a few feet away, haggling over some sort of silly knickknack for her stupid brother. She was on her own, but what else was new? Her father was rarely around, and mommy had gone away—Shirley was still unsure where, exactly—a long time ago. She was used to fending for herself.

 “Stay away from me, you ugly old coot!” she said, glaring sternly at the man. “Don’t make me blow my whistle!”

 The old man’s bulging eyes blinked. “Ugly old coot?” One twisted, stained finger turned back to point at his chest. “Who, me?”

 “Yes, you! I won’t let you kidnap me!”

 The slash of the old man’s mouth twisted in a frown. “Oh my heavens! You think I’m going to … ?”

 “My mommy told me to never, ever go with strangers!”

 “Your mommy is a wise woman.”

 “Was,” Shirley said, pouting.

 “I wanted to offer you a lollipop,” the old man said, holding out a jar.

 “Oh!” Shirley exclaimed, beaming as she took one. “Thank you!”

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