|   YW USA   |  
[email protected]  |  01733 890066   |   Log In

Blog Small Bright Things - 100 Word Stories: A Short Form of Expansive Writing

Small Bright Things - 100 Word Stories: A Short Form of Expansive Writing

By Kim Culbertson | Fiction, Guest Blog, Teachers, Top Tips, Writing Tips

Small Bright Things - 100 Word Stories: A Short Form of Expansive Writing

Kim Culbertson has been teaching high school creative writing and English since 1997 and is the award-winning author of 5 YA novels. Here she talks about the potential of 100-word stories and how they can transform writing, and bring magic to the creative writing classroom.

Grant Faulkner, who wrote the introduction to 100-Word Stories: A Short Form for Expansive Writing, wants you to know it’s okay if your instinct is to believe more is better in writing. We’ve often been taught that as writers, this idea of longer (or more) automatically equals better work. He writes: “This is all good in those early stages of writing. We need to try on those big words. We need to be ambitious with language…. But that bigness needs a counterpoint….We need to recognize the different ways smallness can work to open up an idea, how less is often the best way to reveal a dramatic moment.”

This is where 100-word stories come in. This form can amplify the work you’re already doing in your writing practice. It provides an exercise in helping you decode the intrinsic architecture of a story. It allows you to see that each story holds all the necessary parts in it – characters, a setting, a conflict, sensory and active language, a theme – within a clear arc that has a beginning, middle, and end (this arc, and all these parts, make up stories of all sizes).

I first got to know 100-word stories as a reader. I loved reading these compact, often uplifting or heartbreaking flashes of imagination. Then one day in my classroom, I presented one to my students when clearly none of them had done the assigned reading. I put the 100-word story up on the projector and, after reading it to them, we were able to talk about all the elements I wanted them to explore that day within the context of this tiny world. I started calling these stories small, bright things because they lit up my classroom. My students suddenly showed interest in discussing literary elements, and, soon after, writing their own stories.

The magic of 100-word stories is not that they are exactly 100 words, but rather, the real magic lives in the process of getting them to exactly 100 words. It’s about creating a world and then looking closely at what you might still need – what should be removed, reshaped, added in, amplified – in order to make this the most dynamic version of this story it can be.

I spoke with two writers from our 100-Word Stories book to talk about their experiences with the form and how it has impacted not just their writing but also their thinking. Ana Sagebiel, who wrote “The Human Algorithm,” feels like 100-word stories taught her to “not overthink the writing process.” She went on to say, “They provided me with boundaries where I could explore the capabilities of my writing without having to worry about being ‘impressive’ because their length isn’t intimidating.” Another student, Rain Skylar, who wrote “Baby Bat,” thinks it’s also about constraint and forcing yourself to pair things down. He says, “It’s really easy to get lost in rambling in longer pieces and it’s easy to blow the key parts of a story out of proportion, to forget that it’s just a beginning, middle, and end for a story. The 100-word stories are simple but can be just as effective as longer works, especially in reminding me what a story is.”

Finally, sometimes as writers we just need to finish something. We need to know that we can get to that ending, revise something, polish something, have something complete to show for this work we do as storytellers. 100-word stories are a wonderful antidote to writer’s block. They can help you un-stick your imagination when it feels sluggish. They can open creative pathways we didn’t know we had. Try one – you might just discover a new world.

100-word story prompt:

Try writing a 100-word story where you choose one thing from each list and include them in a meaningful way in your story.

Setting                                    Action                                     Word

a bookshop                    chatting on the phone                    fancy

a soccer arena               eating a snack                                red

a grocery store               watching the sky                           sword

a museum                      listening to music                           bowl

a dark street                   whistling                                         dream

 You can find out more about Kim and her books on her website www.kimculbertson.com or by following her on Instagram or Facebook.

Her book 100-Word Stories: A Short Form For Expansive Writing is published by Heinemann Educational Books and is available to buy now.

 Don't forget to check our our 100-word story competitions:

UK entrants: Crazy Creatures open to 7-12 year-olds, and The Glitch, open to 11-18 year-olds.

US entrants: A Wander in the Woods for 7-13 year-olds, and SOS Sagas: Missing for 10-18 year-olds. 

Happy writing!

Published: Fri 8th Dec 2023

Leave a comment

🍪 Important information about cookies
We use cookies to help us improve your experience with us. By continuing to use our site, you are accepting such use.