Thursday, October 11, 2012

Horror in 20 Words

I remember back in the days of yore, when I first considered myself a writer despite the drivel I produced, I got back in contact with my old English teacher to get her opinion on a 'novel' I had just finished. Bless the poor woman's soul, but she laboured through it, and tried with the kindest possible hints to tell me it was shite. 

Something she said to me then stuck with me (as much of what she said did, seen in the dedication of Red Wine and Words) even though I rejected it at the time. She asked me if I'd ever considered writing short stories to help learn some discipline. Me, with my unquenchable naivety back then said, nope, nope, I want to be a novelist. Stubborn much?

Well, as you may be aware, I did try my hand at some shorts, but only after long, lonely and uncountable years of rejecting my calling because I was sulking over a string of well deserved rejections. And immediately the acceptances began to roll in. Thirty-odd published short stories and a collection of my own later, I've come to appreciate a strict word count and the lessons it breeds. One must learn to conserve words, to be as minimalist as John Pawson's box room. And oftentimes the less word-heavy a piece of writing, the more quality it holds.

Recently I've taken this a step further. Neck deep in a project that I was struggling to drag into the realms of noveldom, I was getting bogged down by words. My writing was getting stale, the pressure was mounting. And lo, on the horizon, a glorious star in the form of a weirdly titled group on Facebook appeared: 20-Word Horror Fiction.

The rules are simple - write a horror fiction, in no more, no less than 20 words. Says I to myself, there's no way, with my waffling tendancies, that I'm going to be able to write a horror in twenty words. Sure, 'tisn't possible. But, being the stubborn fool I mentioned before, I do love myself a challenge. So, without further ado, I set about to write me a twenty word horror story.

The result was somewhat surprising. I found the more I did, the more I could do. When at first I tended to fall a little short or a little over on the word count, as I continued things would just come to me and when I got the chance to type them out, they were bang on the twenty words.

And that's not all. No Siree! When I wound up a quality day of jotting down twenty word stories and started into the real work of writing my novel, I discovered that my writing had turned to poetry. Whereas before each word was like pulling teeth, now they came freely and without coercion, and they were pretty, they complimented each other, they flowed. There's something about trying to pack a beginning, a middle, and an end into just 20 words that pokes that creative gland and encourages it to secrete masses of pure, shining inspiration.

Granted, I doubt any of these mini-gems will win me a Nobel prize for literature or anything, but they sure were fun, and, as it happens, I'm quite proud of some of them. 

And far be it for me to deprive the world of such genius. Therefore I have decided to add a new page to the blog and share these minute horrors as they come. Watch this space...


  1. I am mighty proud of you Ms Emma Ennis. Cant wait to read them and your novel.

    1. Pity this thing doesn't have a 'like' button :) The page is up now, and there's a few there. I'll be adding to them as they come. xxx