Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiction in 500 Words

I am taking two online writing courses right now, one of which is through AllWriter's Workplace & Workshop.  This class is called "Getting Into Writing," and one of the assignments this week is to write a piece of fiction in 500 words.  I had to include one fictional character that was observing a real person, i.e. me.  Because it is so short, it is also inherently an exercise in editing as well!  When I first finished the piece, it was about 1500 words.  Culling that word count down to a mere 500 words required a lot of thought about what was absolutely essential to moving the story along and achieving my goals.  It reminds me of the one-page essays that I was required to write in college.  It's actually harder to write a good, short piece.  Every word is essential and has to function in more than one way.  Writing those one-page essays and writing these 500-word exercises is making me a better writer.  To use a pun, write on!

And now, the writing exercise...


Lenny was Kim’s next door neighbor.  They crossed paths in the evenings, when both were coming home from work.   She was typically dressed in slacks and a sweater.  She seemed to be an open and friendly sort of person; she usually greeted him with a smile and a “Good evening!” 

Lenny was enrolled in an online writing class and he had to write about an acquaintance.  He decided to write about Kim.  But, he thought, how do I observe Kim without looking like a stalker? He looked out of his window and noticed the hedges.  That’s it, he thought, I’ll hang out with my camera at the hedges and wait for her to come out!  It’s a great cover. 

He enacted his plan that Saturday.  He situated himself next to the hedges between their apartments such that he would be facing her if she came out.  I hope I can get this done today, he thought, because this assignment is due on Monday! An hour passed when he finally heard her door open.  She walked out carrying a large black garbage bag; she had to pass him to get to her car. 

She stopped, noticing the camera in his hands.  She was smiling.  He returned her smile and said “Good Morning, Kim.”

 “Hey, Lenny,” she said, a quizzical look on her face.

He read her expression and explained, “I’m taking pictures of the hedges; I’ve always thought that they looked nice.”  He gestured to her garbage bag.  “It looks like you’re about to do some chores.”

She chuckled and said, “Yes, I’m finally cleaning out my car.”

He grinned again and said, “Yeah, I should do that myself.  Well, I don’t want to keep you from your chores.”

“No worries,” she replied, “I hope that your pictures turn out well.”  They grinned at each other again and she walked over to her car. 

He pretended to take pictures but kept her in his field of vision.  He started with her physical features.  She had a short haircut and she was constantly tucking her hair behind her ears.  It looked like she didn’t like having her hair in her face.  She was a pretty short girl, with delicate features and a small bone structure.  She really had to stretch herself out to get to things on the other side of the backseat.  And when she did, she disappeared from sight.  She would sometime toss things onto the ground outside of the car—miscellaneous things like a Tupperware container and even a pair of shoes.  A few more things went into the pile and she climbed back out of the care.  She bent and gathered the objects into her arms—she couldn’t hold much.  She left the car doors open as she walked back to her place, carefully balancing her armload.  She smiled at him once more when she passed and disappeared inside.  Okay, that’s enough material for my homework, thought Lenny, and he slipped inside of his apartment. 

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