Wednesday, February 28, 2018

HOW WRITING SHORT CAN ADD A SPARK TO YOUR IMAGINATION! by Cheryl Pierson

Hi everyone! It’s near the end of February, thank goodness, and March is right around the corner. I have never been a “winter” person, and it seems like the older I get the less I like to see the approach of those cold, dreary winter months. We had our yearly ice storm—we get a lot of that here in Oklahoma—but it’s over!

Growing up, I don’t remember having “cabin fever”—I was always able to entertain myself with indoor activities—coloring, paper dolls, board games, reading, and yes, even writing. This winter I was asked to participate in a little writing exercise that was a lot of fun, and not my “norm” for my writing self.
The story was to be a western historical very short piece. Two sentences were given: The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.

These sentences had to be used in this exact form—without any modification. The only “change” that was useable was the fact that they could come anywhere in the story, as long as they came together as shown here. And the story must be 500 words long—no longer. Mine came in at 497—and let me tell you, that was not easy for me!
It’s been a long time since I was this excited over something different like this—just something fun to try. There will be 51 other participants as well, using these same two sentences. I’m so curious to see where this leads! The book will be sold, but none of us are anticipating getting rich from it—whatever royalties it garners will go into a scholarship fund for a young writer. For me, the rewards were huge.
Two men, waiting for something. One of them is in for a huge surprise. What about the other one? Will he make it out alive?

I had such fun with this! Here's a sneak peek at the first part of it—but remember, there'll be 51 other "takes" on these same sentences. I can hardly wait!

I Can Wait--Cheryl Pierson

“Let’s see…‘The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.’ That’s your story, right, fast gun?” Marshal Ferris smirked as he moved closer to the chair where his prisoner, Johnny Kilgore, was tied.

“Yeah,” Johnny muttered through split lips, blood streaming from the busted nose Ferris had given him. “It’s my story because that’s how it happened, pendejo.”
Ferris shot him a wary glance, unsure if he’d been insulted.

Johnny looked toward the narrow, barred window just in time to see a small hand disappear. Seeing things? Hoping for a miracle… He shook his head to clear it in the stifling air.

Ferris leaned down close, blocking Johnny’s view of the window. “You killed that woman, and you’re gonna admit it, you son of a bitch. We got all night. I can wait.” Ferris cracked his knuckles. Another vicious uppercut rocked Johnny’s head back. “You’re gonna write your confession.”

Who was the kid outside the window? Damn…why even think of that? I’ll be dead before midnight. There’s no help coming. No miracle for me…not this time… Wrong place, wrong time, just once too often…

He’d killed—but he’d never murdered a woman—especially not this one. Maria Lopez had been little more than a girl herself—and her scream from her upstairs room had been one of pure terror. By the time Johnny’d gotten to her, she was already dead. She wasn’t going to tell who did it, but Johnny had a fair idea from the dogged way Ferris kept after him about a confession.

Ferris crossed his arms. “It’s gonna be a long night. I got a powerful hunger. You just sit tight—I’ll be back after dinner. Just in time for you to confess…before you try to escape, and get killed doing it. Think about that while I’m gone,” he chortled as he walked away toward the outer office, banging the door shut like a death knell.



Oh, can't give away the ending, but wouldn't it be fun to do something different like this every so often, just to spice things up a little? I actually love writing prompts--I'd forgotten just how much until I was invited to participate in this collection. It'll be a while before this comes out, so I'll leave you with a link to my latest project, a boxed set called UNDER A WESTERN SKY which includes stories by Celia Yeary, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett, Kaye Spencer, Agnes Alexander and myself. It's a wonderful set and a great price--you can't go wrong!
https://www.amazon.com/Under-Western-Sky-Historical-Romance-ebook/dp/B078SGY1HW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519781625&sr=8-1&keywords=under+a+western+sky

16 comments:

  1. That sounds like an exciting idea. The times I've gotten into a project that required a short story were rewarding to me also. When I first got into Amazon, the forums had a group started by a reader. Once i a while she would put out 7 or so words and ask readers to come up with a story. They though didn't have to be in the same order. It was fun. I bet that this book will find a lot of readers to see what writers do with the challenge.

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    1. Rain, when I used to teach creative writing classes, sooo many students would just moan and groan over having writing prompts to work with--I always loved those things! I always loved to see what the different ideas people had were, and how they would come up with them. One thing I did was, I had 2 or 3 of those coffee table books of LIFE photos that I'd picked up at thrift stores and I'd cover the captions and ask them to write about the picture. I remember one picture of a lineman who climbed up and rescued another one who'd touched a wire--one of the men in class wrote such a touching story in the space of about 15 minutes. When he read his last line, there was not a dry eye in the room. It really was amazing, and it proved to everyone in that class that writing short could be so powerful--and let him know that he really "had it" as a writer. I love that idea of putting up 7 words and asking people to come up with a story. LOL I don't know that this book will see a lot, but it was fun to do and I am really anticipating seeing what others did with these lines.

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    2. Fun idea, Cheryl, and I love your story, so far. Anxious to read the ending! Be sure to let us know when the book comes out.

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    3. Rain, I remember that group fondly. We shared some good times there, didn't we?

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    4. Lyn, I will--it'll hopefully be toward the end of April. There are quite a few people we all will be familiar with, I think--western authors, mainly. It'll be a lot of fun to see what everyone came up with. Thanks so much for stopping by. I wonder if we might do something fun here at SOTW from time to time like that group you and Rain mentioned. Something to consider! XOXO

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  2. It was a great group, Lynn and fortunately a lot of us are on FB now; so we didn't lose touch

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  3. I loved your post. I can remember having to do stories like this a long time ago. It's amazing how people can take the same thing and see it differently.

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    1. Thanks, Paisley. You know it just makes you realize how very many different ideas and views there are of things in the world--the very same picture or even eyewitness accounts of things that happened. I've been thinking about this all day. LOL

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  4. I remember Writer's Digest had an annual short-short contest. I imagine they still do. I entered a few times. Didn't win. Anyway, I liked reading these ingenious short-short stories. I also liked, and still do like, writing short stories--maybe not as short as 500 words though which would be quite a challenge. I admire those who attempt such a challenge.
    I know having to use a specific set of words must have been both an inspiration and an obstacle, but obviously, you have risen to the occasion. I now it must have been fun seeing how everyone used that sentence.
    A great post, Cheryl.

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    1. Sarah, I mentioned before how I love writing prompts and I think it's because it forces our minds to get out of a rut and write about things we never thought to write about on our own. Writing short is really hard. You still have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. LOL It's really tough--at least I think it is--to do it in 500 words. But it sure was a lot of fun. I haven't got to see what everyone else came up with, but I'm looking forward to it next month when this book comes out.

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  5. I remember hearing someone saying at a workshop they attended they were given a writing prompt. There was some sort of prize connected to this prompt. Two of the gals from this group both received quite a lovely prize, contracts with Harlequin. Both books had slightly altered the first sentences by the time they went to publication. Both books came out on the same day. And somehow in a room full of people with the same writing prompt, those two gals knew each other. Not close friends but knew each other. Neither one realized they both received contracts on the same day or that they had both written books based on the same prompt. The moral of the story was to never to dismiss a writing prompt.

    Congratulations on writing short! I totally admire anyone who can do that.

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    1. WOW. That is amazing, E. Hey, I'm so glad to see you here--hope you're feeling better, too.

      Writing short is something you really have to learn to do, IMO--it doesn't just "happen"--and sometimes, I think it's a lot harder than writing a longer story because you have to make it interesting and cram so much into such a little space. The old story goes that Hemingway boasted he could write a short story in 6 words, and he did--a story that says everything. "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn."

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  6. Really enjoyed reading your post, Cheryl, and especially part of your short, short story. I've never tried to write a story with that few of words, quite a challenge, but I can see where it would be fun. Let us know when the collection is published.

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    1. Cheri, it is tough. The first piece I ever sold was a very short story and it had to be true. It was to Adams Media's Rocking Chair Reader collections, and was supposed to be a story about something you found in the attic that reminded you of something else. I wrote about finding two pennies pressed flat on the train track from when my cousin, Julia, and I used to sneak off and go down to the train tracks where our grandparents lived when we'd get together for Christmas, 4th of July, etc. It was our "alone time" away from the younger cousins, and how we'd thrill to the sound of the train coming, run to put our pennies down, and then pick them up when the train ran over them and pressed them flat. It was not easy to compress it all into about 1200 words, but it taught me how hard it was to do, and it was a story that was perfect for that collection and I wanted to write it so badly, I just kept at it until I did it. I had a wonderfully patient editor who worked with me and helped me understand how to cut words and make it short and to the point, but still keep it interesting.

      Since then, I've written a lot of other short pieces for them and for Chicken Soup, but this one for this western project is by far the shortest I've ever written for a published anthology. I will definitely let y'all know when it's published. I'm so anxious to see what everyone else wrote!

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  7. Oh, the memories of workshops past and contests, too. While visiting family long ago in New Mexico, I entered a contest in a Senior newspaper that gave elements to be used in a short story. Back home, I received word I'd won and the savings bond still sits in my safe! More recently, I took a local class with similar exercises; a small group, we came up with some doozies!Great fun, Cheryl!

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    1. Hi Arletta! I love these short pieces and thinking of how to work it all out in the very sparse amount of words allowed. Quite a challenge and I just love it. I think those small classes are great for lots of laughs and fun and brainstorming.

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