Bestselling novelist and regular visitor to Curtis Brown Creative Jeffrey Archer came into our offices at the end of last month to speak to students on our Six-Month Creative-Writing course and share his tips on storytelling. Unlike other guest speakers to visit the course, though, Jeffrey set some homework. Stressing the importance of economy to good writing, he asked the group to produce a story – one with a beginning, middle and end – of exactly 100 words (including title). It could be about anything – it did, though, have to be be a proper story – not just a description or character sketch. Well, Lord Archer has now selected his three favourites. Here are the two runners-up:
Two men sat cross-legged on the beach. Between them lay a large, heavy rock and a small, flat pebble. Eventually, the skinnier man snatched up the pebble.
‘This side with the white marking can be heads. Plain side is tails,’ he said.
His friend nodded thoughtfully, ‘I call heads.’
Up flew the pebble, turning somersaults in the air before landing with a soft thud. Heads.
The ship’s captain saw the plume of smoke rising from the island which he had believed to be deserted. Next to the fire, one man sits cross-legged on the beach.
Philip was a writer. A damn good one in his opinion, though others disagreed.
With each fresh rejection letter, his enthusiasm waned. He became indifferent, then discouraged and finally phobic about putting pen to paper. The mere mention of the word ‘writing’ made him shake, sweat and break out in itchy hives.
One day, Philip stuffed his collected works – the jotting-filled notebooks; the unfinished drafts; the brilliant unpublished first novel – into a small rucksack, wrapped the straps tight around his neck and threw himself off Westminster Bridge into the fish-stinking waters below.
He didn’t leave a note.
And here’s the winner:
No ordinary date
He was sitting alone and surprisingly good-looking.
‘Hello,’ she said, approaching his table.
His eyes ran the length of her body.
‘You’re not what I expected.’
He gestured to a waiter.
‘Red,’ she smiled, taking a seat. ‘You’ve obviously done this before.’
He shook his head. ‘No. But I imagine you have.’
She sighed. Looks could be so deceiving.
‘Tell me. How will you do it?’
‘How?’ he whispered. ‘How will you kill my wife?’
Her chair screeched as she pushed it back. ‘You’re not Steve, are you?’
Blind dates. Always a risk.
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