Firebreak: A Fifty Word Story

The untried Firedog stands between village and inferno, testing the wind. At his signal, arrows ignite brush piled beyond the cleared swathe. Wind-fueled flames speed away.

As he breaks up the smoldering remains, wind shifts push the fire towards the village.

It roars and sparks, but his first line holds.


Once again a fifty word story responding to @jayna’s prompt.  Working on the fifty word stories really push our skills as editors. I’ve been lucky to get to work on the story drafts of several others as well, so I can really feel how much it makes me think.

My husband had difficulty understanding how I could spend so many hours working on a fifty word story. But in many ways, the short, tight stories are harder to edit than larger ones. The challenge, especially, is to make them STORIES.

Many are tempted to settle for a simple snapshot or postcard in word form. The arc, if there even is one, feels summarized after the fact. But if we back up a bit, tighten our focus, and juggle things around, we can make them true stories that contain at least a plot if not also a character arc. I recommend looking for a trigger, a change, and a doorway

Yes, that is a lot of work to do for a fifty word story, but if we’re writers, shouldn’t that be what we do? Don’t our small stories deserve to be the best little story we can make them just as much as our larger stories do? If we start settling for something that’s “good enough” and stop striving for our own personal best, how are we going to grow and develop?

It’s not boring work. It’s fun work–the work of writing and editing and rewriting and re-editing. Or at least it is if you really have the drive to be a writer. And if we can’t look at and find the core developmental flaws within a small story, how ever will we manage to deal with them in a novel, where they are far more complex and numerous?

So I challenge you, as writers or want-to-be-writers, to rip your microfiction to shreds and rebuild it better and stronger than it was before. Write, edit, rewrite, and re-edit over and over until you really can say it’s the best little story you could make it.

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