Today’s assignment twist is to write in as few words as possible, the prompt being to imagine stumbling across a letter on the path, reading it and being deeply affected.
I didn’t have a word count in mind when I started and just wrote in response to the prompt, trying to keep my writing concise. Now I’ve slept, I’ve decided to look at it again and whittle it down to shorter writing as if there were a word limit to work to. I sometimes do this to enter flash fiction challenges at microbookends.com using only 100 to 110 words to tell a whole story. I’ve only been prcatising flash fiction for a few weeks but there are some fantastic regular writers enter and some of the stories are incredibly powerful and effective with so few words.
My original off the cuff response here produced writing of 277 words.
I was waiting for a bus. It was early morning and I had been delayed. I would be late for my appointment so was writing email on my phone. Lots of people passed on their way to work or to take kids to school.
A crowd passed and a falling page caught my eye, but I hadn’t noticed who had dropped it. It was a letter addressed to ‘My Love’. I intended to shout that I’d found it but the words caught my eye and left me stunned. I don’t wish to repeat them, such deeply personal and disturbing words.
I considered chasing after them but they were disappearing out of sight. I was already late and my bus arrived. The lady sitting behind me on the bus had been in the queue and seen. She wanted to read the letter and was quite stroppy when I refused.
After my appointment I bought envelopes and a stamp, placed the page inside, copied the adress to the envelope and enclosed a brief note to explain. I was relieved there’d been an address on that page to post it back to the writer. I’m not sure if they were intending sending it themselves but at least they would have it returned.
So, the cut-down version is less, but if I had a word limit of around 100 to 110 words, I’ve use twice as many words as my limit. Could I still tell the story in less words?
While waiting for the bus a crowd passed. A falling page caught my eye, but fallen from whom? I picked it up to see a letter addressed to ‘My Love’. They were too far away to chase after them to return it. I will never repeat those very deep personal words. Reading it disturbed me. My bus arrived and I went on with my journey. Another lady had seen and wanted to read it but I refused. After my appointment I made sure to post the letter to its writer, glad for the address to be able to do so. I hoped they would be glad too for its safe return. (111 words)
If this were a challenge response with a strict word limit of 110 words, I’d still have one word too many. Which word would you leave out? As a reader, which version of this story did you prefer to read and why?