100 Words #403 - Why 100?

When I started the 100 Words Challenge years ago, it was simply a continuation of an arbitrary writing exercise from a long defunct blogging community I was part of. It fit the format we had well and allowed us to give feedback and support to each other. 

The longer I've been running this challenge, the more I've come to appreciate the beauty of crafting a story in 100 words. The less I think of it as arbitrary, and the more I think of it as a rigorous writing challenge.

At first blush, a new writer might think, "only 100 words? That's easy!". 

Ah, but those veterans among you know the truth. To craft a story in so few words, to make it compelling, understandable, evocative, and complete, is no easy task. It takes considerable writing chops to spin something you can call finished within the parameters.

In the call to brevity in writing, instructors often refer to the well-known story of Hemingway winning a bet that he could write a complete story in less than 10 words. According to legend he wrote these six words on a napkin and won the bet: 

For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn. 

Vintage Sterling Silver Wahl Mechanical Pencil

It's not clear if the bet, or Hemingway writing these words ever happened, but no matter because the lesson holds. This six word story, whoever crafted it, has a beginning, middle and end and it's evocative. We can fill in the gaps with our own imagination. Not one word in the story tells us directly what happened or how we should feel about it, and yet we know both of those things. 

A decidedly different kind of story, but a good example from Azureology's entry on Oct. 24

The paparazzi simply had a field day with this one. A young man, and older starlet, all over each other. Tongues were wagging everywhere, which was why this little intervention had been called.

Neither person spoke. Small talk had been futile, petering out within moments. Now, they were alternately stirring their tea, or drinking it.

Footsteps heralded the approach of a third person. A woman in a pencil skirt didn’t so much sit asperched and alighted, and ordered herself a glass of wine. She smiled wryly.

“So,” she said flatly, flourishing the tabloid magazines. “What’s the angle this time?”

The story has a beginning, middle, and end (or in other words, there is a problem, and then resolution). It shows, rather than tells - they stir and drink their tea, but we know that room is tense, and when the heroine arrives in her pencil skirt she perches and alights, but we know she is competent, respected, probably feared, and unquestionably in charge. Finally, the reader's ability to fill in gaps is respected, but not overtaxed.

Over the years, I can recall many such examples all of you have produced. That 100 word story that packs a delicious punch, or elicits laughter, or leaves you hanging in just the right way, or is simply delivered as neatly as a package tied up in a bow. Almost every week there's at least one. 

So, you ready for another one? Another chance to tighten those loose ends, ruthlessly cut every unnecessary word, and hone your craft? This week I'm taking the word prompt from Azureology's submission: 

100 Words Writing Prompt #403