Writing Thursday: Responding To A Prompt; or, I Commit An Act Of Short Fiction

A little something different this week:  A friend of a friend, whose blog I follow, runs a monthly writing contest, where she throws out an orphaned first line and invites people to write either the first paragraph of a story or the first stanza of a poem in response.  Which I think is wonderful fun, and it’s always amusing to see the different takes people come up from the same starting point.

This month, the prompt was, “Her bones remembered the proper shape.”

And to my surprise, what came out of my brain was a paragraph-long short story, probably the shortest story I’ve ever written (165 words):

Her bones remembered the proper shape, even though it had been years, no, decades since she’d last shifted into that form. Jana bit back a cry as muscles twisted and tendons stretched. The promise she’d made to her dying father poked stiff fingers into her conscience, adding to her pain. It’s for Rissa. She had to save her daughter from the beast who tormented her, didn’t she? The pain faded and Jana straightened, looking into the bathroom mirror. A monster stared back. Vivid scarlet lips, twisted into a parody of a grin, contrasted sharply with her pasty white skin. Raised eyebrows gave her an expression of perpetual surprise, and tufts of orange hair over her ears framed eyes that disappeared into the blue-pigmented skin around them. The nose, ah, that was perfect, bulbous and red, just as it should be. She smiled, revealing three rows of inch-long fangs. Yes! If that little brat bullying her daughter wasn’t afraid of clowns now, he soon would be.


Which, I later decided, would also make a great first paragraph for an urban fantasy/murder mystery, with shapeshifter Jana as the main character–and suspect in the murder, when the bullying boy is discovered dead at his own birthday party.  But it makes a great little story just as it is, I think.

What’s the shortest story you’ve ever written?


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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4 Responses to Writing Thursday: Responding To A Prompt; or, I Commit An Act Of Short Fiction

  1. Sharon Davis says:

    Oh, that rocks. I hope you do expand it.

  2. Erick Melton says:

    Hey, Sheila. I like writing prompts like this and enjoy reading your take on it.

    Up until I started writing my blog on a regular basis, the shortest thing I could seem to write was about 7,500 words or so. I find it difficult to make a “story” shorter than that.


    • Erick,

      Yeah, even my short stories tend to run more toward novellas. I was frankly amazed at how this one came out.

      I think my problem is that I enjoy developing characters and the relationships between them, and there’s not as much room for that in a short story.

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