I could end the blog right there. That pretty much says it all. But, you’d still be wondering what on earth that means? Is it okay for a story to be told in a single sentence? Should it fill one page? Two pages? Is twenty-nine too many?
Don’t agonize over length. Each story will dictate its own length as you write. Some may run on for many pages, and others may fit in a single paragraph, like this one:
My most embarrassing moment came the year after I graduated from college. I had studied German for two years, and thought I knew a few words. But one evening I attended bridge club, and the the hostess’s mother-in-law was visiting from Austria. She had helped Ossie prepare elegant pastries for dessert. I wanted to tell the woman how much I enjoyed the treats, but she didn’t speak a word of English. Calling upon my best German I said, "Das kuchen sind sehr gut." (The cakes are very good.) She looked at me, shook her head and said, "No speak English." I blushed and tried again, more slowly, with the same result. She looked so embarrassed, and I was horrified that she didn't even recognize that I was speaking her language! Believe me, that was the last time I ever tried speaking German!This entire story is complete within the single paragraph. It tells who was involved (Ossie's mother-in-law and me), when (a year after graduation) and where it happened (Ossie's house), what happened (I gave up speaking German), and why (I feared further humiliation). It has a theme (embarrassment), a beginning (introduces the topic of embarrassment), a middle (describes an embarrassing moment), and an end (embarrassment put a stop to my further use of German).
Very short stories like this one are generally referred to as anecdotes or vignettes and incorporated into larger stories, but they can stand on their own. Write them and file them away. If you find further use for them later, that’s great. If you don’t, someday somebody will find that story and read it with a smile and gratitude.
Write now: about an embarrassing moment of your own, letting the story dictate its own length.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal