Some time ago, my boyfriend told me about a writing competition. A Dutch site hosted a competition to celebrate Short Story Week, and asked writers to write an extremely short story of only 55 words, including the title. Just for fun, I decided to enter. This morning, I received an email saying my story was one of the winning entries – and it will be published in an actual book. So, technically, I will be a published author…
It’s quite hard to write a story in 55 words, including the title. It needs to have a beginning and and ending, and, if possible, a nice twist. Each words need to make sense. That’s why I chose a clear title, then wrote one line of dialogue, and a reaction to it. I wrote the story in Dutch, but then translated it into English. Here they are:
‘I can’t take it any longer!’ he shouted. ‘If I come home and find you this drunk one more time, I’m leaving. I’ve had it up to here.’
She looked at him, shrugged her shoulders, and calmly opened another bottle of wine. She couldn’t remember a time when such threats did affect her.
‘Ik kan er niet meer tegen!’ schreeuwde hij. ‘Als ik nog één keer thuiskom en jou dronken aantref, dan verlaat ik je. Je zoekt het maar uit.’
Zij keek hem aan, haalde haar schouders op, en trok onverstoord nog een fles wijn open. Deze discussie was al veel te vaak met haar gevoerd.
I won’t tell you how to interpret this story; that’s up to you. I will tell you, however, what inspired me to write it. I had just finished reading, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, which won the Booker Prize last year. It’s about a young Scottish boy with an alcoholic mother. It’s a beautiful but depressing book about a child’s unconditional love for his disfuntional mother. My story is an ode to that book – but a lot shorter.
While writing this post, I kept thinking about how inspiration works. Sometimes you can be struck by it like lightning, and sometimes it takes ages before you finally find the right words. I also wrote a fairy tale for a competition a couple of weeks ago (didn’t make it to the shortlist there, unfortunately), and I must have written about half a dozen versions before I finally decided on a completely different one. This story only took about ten minutes to write it down. As soon as I had the title, the rest of it just came to me. Take a look at the picture for a title explanation.
Did you know the Olympic Games had a literature discipline until 1954? It was abandoned because the writers were considered professionals, and at that time it was still an event for amateurs. Writing, or indeed all art, shouldn’t be a competition, because I think it’s about evoking emotion rather than any physical ability. Someone’s favourite book may be hated by others, or can leave yet another completely indifferent. Then again, hosting writing competitions spread awareness of literature and the process of writing. It made me write this story. so yes, maybe it’s a good thing after all.
What do you think of my story? Do you think there should be more writing competitions? Let me know in the comments. Also make sure to follow me for more book musings and stories!