Clean Slate: A Fifty Word Story

Clean Slate

“Take me with you.”

He shook his head, adjusting the saddle. “I need to start fresh.”

She embraced him. “We can.”

He kissed her.

“You’d always know who I’d been.” He wiped her tears then turned away. “I gotta find who I can be.”

He rode off, never looking back.

This is my entry for this week’s 50 word prompt from @Jayna.  The prompt was clean. 

My story this week didn’t come easily. A lot of that is because no words are coming easily right now. I have a lot of emotional mayhem because of the holiday season. But also because I had one idea that I never found a decent take on and a second one that ended up impossible to put enough sense of the arc into the tight word count. So really this is my third try at making a story work for this prompt and it took a lot of editing. My thanks to Jasmine Arch (@jasminearch) for the editing help. Her careful scalpel work helped cut some words back so I could intensify the sense of transition in the story, although I’m aware it is still subtle and some may not get it.

With stories this concise, a lot of the character arc and sense of transition relies heavily on the reader’s interpretation of the story. Sometimes I am certain I have plenty of arc in my story but not all readers see it. And I usually discuss that aspect with others in the editing process as well to help confirm what I intend it coming through. But it’s a tricky balance in few words. These tight stories are great for helping us learn to let go and trust our readers. We don’t have enough words to use a sledge hammer and pound a point home. We have to let go and trust our readers to get the subtle hints we leave them.

No story is ever going to work perfectly for every reader. But we can learn from both our successes and our failures to convey and capture what we intended. And sometimes when we let go and put them out there, readers find even more than we intended. 

I wrote a fifty word story for a previous prompt that I didn’t post to my blog. I am trying it on other markets but I don’t know if I will find the right fit for it or not. Some readers get different things out of it than I intended, but pretty much all who have seen it in the review process had emotional reactions, so I’m going to keep trying to find a market who sees something good in it.

Keep writing. Keep learning. And remember that even those collections of words that aren’t quite there will teach you something if you let them. It is when we quit striving to improve and grow that we truly fail.

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