“How long should a story be?”
I’ve never taught a beginning lifestory class without having this question arise. I’ve never found an improvement on the classic answer:
“As long as it takes to tell the whole story.”
For an powerful example of how large a slice of life can be packed into 282 words, click over to the essay blogger Maureen M entered in TupperWare’s Chain of Confidence contest. This poignant tribute to her mother covers a lot of ground. It includes all basic elements of a complete story (who, what, when, where, why, plus plenty of suspense and tension) and I guarantee you will not anticipate the surprise ending.
Maureen’s story is focused with laser-like precision, cutting directly to the point. There is enough content between those two dozen lines to fill at least a page for each word, but you may not understand the core story as well if it did.
Whether you are writing a single vignette story or a book-length manuscript, be clear on your purpose and let the story tell you how long it needs to be.
Write now: a laser-focused short story of 500 words or less about some significant influence on your life. Write fast; write tight; write real. And double-check for all the basic story elements.