Sunday, July 17, 2016

Writing Prompt: The Challenge: Keeping it Short

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt challenges you to write something outside of your comfort zone. It’s designed to push your creative boundaries and stretch those artistic wings.

Today’s challenge will push you to be brief and make every single word count.

Write a 300-word scene without using any sentences longer than four words.

And that includes dialogue.

“She didn’t say that.” is fine.

“She didn’t say,” I asked. is too many.


  1. "Mom likes you best."

    I sighed. "Ben, I-"

    "No. No. She does. You know it."

    Ben is a whiner. Always was. Always will be. It's not his fault. Dad coddled him. Took him to games. Bought him a skidoo. Gave him the business. Made him his favourite.

    So Mom loved me.

    She showed me patience. She tended my wounds. She taught me to cook.

    We baked. We sautéed. We broiled. We roasted. We savoured our days. We breathed in life.

    My family grew apart. Home was two pairs. Not one family. We became strangers.

    Ben joined Dad. Two salesmen selling tech. They knew the keywords. They flabbergasted and flummoxed. They outright lied. Dad could fake-out anyone.

    I become a chef. Flipping burgers. Melting Phillys. Learning to speak diner. Turning lard into comfort. Turning starch into smiles.

    Ben dropped by once.

    “Loser. I pull in thousands. You stink of grease.”

    “I love it here.” I paraded a flyer. “See. Best Diner in metro. Two years running.”

    “Voted for by morons.” Ben snorted a laugh. “Give it up, loser.”

    Then Dad died. Tech sales went online. PCs stopped selling. Ben was lost. He needed help. And Mom said, “No.”

    So he found me. He wanted money. He wanted a bed. He invaded my kitchen. He waited for food.

    “You owe me.” Ben slammed my table. “You got to choose. I was mini Dad. Stupid dead-end job.”

    I set the table. The food was heated. “You could’ve said no. You weren’t forced.”

    Ben cupped his chin. “Maybe. Maybe not. Dad expected me, though.”

    I hesitated. Then I slid the plate over. “Here you go.”

    Ben gave a stare. His knife prodded it. He took a whiff. “What is it?”

    “Pie, “I said. “Humble Pie.”

  2. "I've always hated you." The words shocked me. I didn't plan them. I just said them.

    "You...that's a lie."

    "It's not." I was still surprised. I never spoke out. I never got mad. I was never honest. "I hate you. I have for years.”

    “Tell me the truth.” Cristi’s stubborn like that. She doesn’t like honesty. Not from me. That’s why I lie.

    I’m tired of lying.

    “I am. God, Cristi, just… I’m sick of you. I’m sick of us.” It was freeing. It was terrifying. I was hooked immediately.

    “You son of a…” I waited. She couldn’t finish.

    “Son of a what? What, Cristi?” Cristi doesn’t like swearing. I raised an eyebrow. I dared her. She pursed her lips.

    “Why now?” she asked. I shrugged.

    “Why not?”

    “Because you’re hurting me.” I frowned. I didn’t want that. I never wanted that. “You’re *hurting* me.”

    I panicked. I reverted to lies. Lies were safe.

    “Good,” I said. (I hope this works.) “Good,” I repeat, softly. (This isn’t working.) I open my mouth. I will fix things. “Cristi—”

    “I’ll kill myself.” I panic. Lies or the truth? Which will fix things? “If you leave. I mean it, Gina. I’m not joking.” I believe her.

    Because I’m never honest. But she’s *always* honest.

  3. The front door opened.

    Dad froze.

    Mom stared him down.

    He glanced at me.

    He realized I talked.

    My stupidest mistake.

    "I'm sorry, Dad."

    He swallowed.

    Mom turned to me.

    "Go upstairs."

    "Mom, I-"

    "Leave already."

    She never sounded angrier.

    I nodded.

    Dad passed by me.

    I hide nearby.

    "Why hide this?"


    "Well?" Mom screamed.

    More silence.

    "Answer me," Mom screeched

    My heart pounded.

    "I knew you'd worry."

    "Damn right I would!"

    My eyes watered up.

    Dad had testicular cancer.

    "You're telling Becky."

    "I know."

    "She'll be home soon."


    Mom's sobs were wretched.

    "It's okay baby."

    "No it's not."

    She was right.

    Dad was dying.

    Mom would be a widow.

    Becky and I orphans.

    Why was this happening?

    Becky came in.

    She tensed.

    "What's going on?"

    Dad hugged her.

    "I'm dying, sweetie."


    "Daddy's got cancer."

    Becky's face contorted

    "Is this a joke?"

    Dad shook his head.

    Becky pulled him close.

    Mom came over too.

    I stayed away.

    I couldn't move.

    It was too real.

    "You're getting treatment, right?"

    "It's too far along."

    "Don't say that!"

    Becky's face was crimson.

    Mom wiped her cheeks.

    "Don't cry baby."

    "Shut up!"

    Becky ran upstairs.

    She found me.

    "You know, didn't you?"

    I nodded.

    She bit her lip.

    "That's explains a lot!"

    She punched me.

    "Becky!" Mom called.

    My arm throbbed.

    Mom and Dad arrived.

    "Stop fighting, please."

    Becky glanced at Dad.

    She said nothing.

    Mom checked my arm.

    A bruise was coming.

    "Are you okay?"

    I shook my head.

    Mom turned to Becky.

    "Go to your room."

    She glared at Mom.

    "We'll talk later."

    "Don't count on it."

    She stomped away.

    She slammed her door.

    It rocked the floor.

    I glanced at Dad.

    "What happens now?"

    "We keep going."

    "I love you, Dad"

    "I love you too."

    He hugged me.