Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AFRAID to write a Super Short

J.A. Konrath writes the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mysteries, as well as a phenomenally helpful blog for aspiring writers. He has also dabbled in the horror field, and has published the horror novel AFRAID under the name Jack Kilborn. To promote AFRAID, Joe is doing an exhausting tour all across the world...via the internet. As part of his whirlwind blog tour, he is stopping by The Pen-ferno today with a little challenge. And so, here's Joe:


I'm currently blog touring, flogging the release of my new horror novel, AFRAID. It's being released on March 31, and I wrote it under the name Jack Kilborn. Please run out and buy fifteen copies.
During all of this guest blogging, I've written well over fifteen thousand words, and I'm close to running out.

So let's try a little writing experiment.Write an entire story in 20 words or less.

It's doable. Hemingway did it with his famous super short:
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now, I'm not Hemingway. Which I'm happy about, because he's dead. But I admire his ability to tell an entire story in just a few words.

Here are two of mine:
"The adrenalin really kicked in when Carter realized he forgot to pack his chute."

And one for the Jack Kilborn crowd, with more of a horror slant."Is my hair okay? I can never tell. Is that why you won't invite me in for a bite?"

Now it's your turn. You have 20 words. Use them well.


Joe and I will both choose a winner (he gets first pick, it being his challenge and such). The first prize winner will get a copy of AFRAID, signed by Joe himself. The second prize winner will get a copy of Joe's first Jack Daniels mystery, WHISKEY SOUR.

***EDIT: The deadline has passed.

The winners are jane, candid and lettera22.

You all did fantastic, and this was great fun! Thanks again to all for stopping by The Pen-ferno!


Linda Pendleton said...

"When I awoke I looked around and then realized it was all over."

jnantz said...

Nicely done, Linda. You've got us off and running!

And Joe, thanks again for stopping by today. Hopefully we'll get some good super shorts over here.

To try my own hand at it, I'll give you one inspired by Ken Bruen's latest, Once Were Cops:
"Internal Affairs and my new partner asked my whereabouts when the shooting began. Might have to stage more 'accidents'."

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for having me here, Jake.

Let's make next Thursday the end of the contest. So people have to post their entries by midnight, March 26th.

By the way, I'm curious if people "get" my second short-short. Hint: the subject isn't human...

JA Konrath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Basil Sands said...

Yeah..vampire right?

Pointy hair...Bella Lugosi look?

Basil Sands said...

Knife in hand I step back. Blood pools on linoleum like chrimson mercury. He'll never touch her like that again.

Vickie said...

"Yep, it's still me. Much to some people's relief and other's dismay."

hopefulwriter said...

"He closed the coffin. It was already dawn. His wife--God rest her soul--would have to wait another night."

I know it's kind of sick, but I kind of based it off Derrick Rushlo, Joe.

(How's that for a shout-out?)

Karen from Mentor said...

I LOVED that Joe had to give us a hint on his story. Must be because he's at a teacher's website and his chalk hand was itching.

Jake..did you see Lee Goldberg's post today?

I thought Lee was being extremely short sighted. Having this chair in your swingin' bachelor pad would be a GREAT way for a single guy to gauge whether or not a woman was a "keeper".

Thanks guys fun as always.
I'll work on a 20 word story.

Karen from Mentor said...

Here's mine:

Perusing the stub, you rethink the whole lean over the fence holding sandwich so Dave can snap a picture idea.

Karen Schindler :)

Jack Leff said...

A student's attempt at this...

I returned from my "business trip," noticing someone had taken my gun. I turned around, finding it facing me.

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks for the meanderings and muses "lets chat about hats" blog.
The pictures killed me. Especially the pink one with the hula hoop like attachments. I don't know how the lady doesn't tip over, and she looks so damn pleased and smug while wearing it. How the heck is this a blog that you read?
Karen Schindler

Katie S. said...

A knife was in my hand as I went inside. I found her body and thought, “Damn, I’m too late.”

Robert said...

Got two here, if that's okay. Both with titles ...

"After Prom"

For sale. Trojan condom. Never used.


"Corrections & Clarifications"

It was Fredrick Miller, not his murdered son Matthew, who was executed Monday night at Henshaw Prison.

Karen from Mentor said...

Witness to coroner, “I took his beer, he said, watch this , but there were never TWO trains before.”

Karen Schindler

jane, candid said...

"Looking down at the keyboard through my new bifocals, I saw my mother's hands."

jnantz said...

Man I really like the visual you create there.

That could be as much a life's motto as a story! I love it!

Very ominous. I can almost hear the slightly out-of-tune organ piping away in the background.

jnantz said...

I got a good laugh picturing your 20-word story. And yeah, Kaye is a sweetheart I "met" virtually through murderati, and she's so eloquent that I have to at least lurk on her blog. Plus, she's a Boone girl, and I was a Banner Elk guy in college, so I have to give her a shout-out!

jnantz said...

Nicely done. That would be quite a shock, eh?

I love how open-ended yours was. Could go a couple of ways as far as background!

Both good. I definitely lol'ed on that first one, from too many years of teaching h.s. seniors, I guess...

jnantz said...

Another good one. Keep 'em coming!

Wow. Very poignant, and such great imagery in so few words. Well done.

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Jake,
I like Jane's best so far. I "met" her during Joe's tour and we're now "pen pals". This is such an awesome thing that's going on here.

Lets all join hands and sing Kum bay Yah... anybody?
Karen Schindler

Thanks for clearing up the hat mystery.

Karen from Mentor said...

Containing your horror at your vomit filled shoes, you smile back at your beaming toddler.”I feel much better Mommy.”

Karen Schindler

Karen from Mentor said...

Last one:
Sickened, you push away your salad while chanting “It was just half of a caterpillar, a little extra protein”.

This works with the phrase "an eyeball" instead of "a caterpillar" too, but I would think lots of alcohol would be involved before 1/2 an eyeball would be consumed without noticing.
Well, unless it was a caterpillar's eyeball.

jnantz said...

Not much of a Kum-bay-yah crowd, looks like. Sorry Karen!

Karen from Mentor said...

That's ok Jake,
At least you got a lot of entries. There's nobody playing with me over at Laurin Wittig's blog. LOL

Come on over there and try your hand at writing a "set the mood" story this week. I won last week 'cause I was the only player.
I'm really enjoying the challenges. Are you going to make this a regular feature of your blog?
And Joe HAS linked a LOT of us up, we probably just need more beer to sing kum bay yah.

Karen from Mentor said...

Although my superman vs. spiderman story was pretty funny...

Lettera22 said...

Hi Joe & Jake:

I've participated in 1,500 word, 1,000 word, 500 word contests in the past and those were trying enough. This is my first 20 word story contest. Okay, here it goes...two entries....

He pulled her closer for another kiss and noticed her Adam's apple. He'd be sleeping alone tonight.


She stared back at him, last words frozen on her lips. No forgiveness today. He closed the freezer door.


rantonson17 said...

Ok, here's one:

"I loved him more than life, and he didn't even know it."

P.S. You've got some really awesome links on your site--thanks for sharing!

Karen from Mentor said...

"He pulled her closer for another kiss and noticed her Adam's apple. He'd be sleeping alone tonight."

Ok, again PEOPLE you have to warn me if I'm eating something. My keyboard has so many cookie crumbs now it's not even funny. This was great....I was only slightly disapointed that Lettera22 was female, cause if a guy wrote it, you'd have that little bit of wonder of did this actually happen to him?
Oh and "another kiss" makes the whole thing. That could have been easily overlooked.
Nice. Sorry Jane, this is now my favorite. (not that I actually get a vote, but still....)
Thanks Jake, this is fun.

Basil Sands said...

"...another kiss...noticed her Adams Apple.."

No amount of listerine could cure that. Counseling maybe...

Basil Sands said...

The plumber shook his head. "You ate how many prunes?"

Basil Sands said...

Standing by the open 13th story apartment window and the empty cage, Billy asked "Dad, do gerbils fly?"

Basil Sands said...

Pin in hand my heart sinks as the grenade rolls back into the hole. I should'a practiced pitching more.

Basil Sands said...

At 65 Below spit freezes before it hits the ground. Looking at the smoking engine, she pulls her sweater tight.

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Jake,
Somebody broke Joe's blog.

There's no comment box available on the main page.

He must be getting A LOT of traffic. Or else he was updating the blog late last night,keeled over from exhaustion and he's even now asleep at the keyboard with his nose pressing the F5 key.....

JA Konrath said...

Okay, dammit, there were too many great entries. Seriously, this is impossible to chose the best.

But it's my contest, so I gotta pick one. So I did:

"Looking down at the keyboard through my new bifocals, I saw my mother's hands."

Jane, email me your address, I'll send you a book.

And congrats everybody. There is some really great stuff here.

jnantz said...

rantonson17 -
I'm so glad some of these links are helpful to you! I've found a literal ton of information from all of them combined, that's helped me with almost every facet of my writing. Thanks for stopping by!

jnantz said...

And as far as my winner, I agree with Joe, there are just so damn many good ones to choose from. I think I'll have to agree with Karen and go with Jen (Lettera22), who gave us a good laugh (or a queasy stomach, depending...) with this one:

"He pulled her closer for another kiss and noticed her Adam's apple. He'd be sleeping alone tonight."

Email me your address and I'll send you the (fresh off the shelves) mmpb of Joe's WHISKEY SOUR.

And thanks to everyone for coming over! Hope to see you around!

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Great job everybody!!! This was so much fun. I feel so happy that both of my favorites won!!
(Joe & Jake? your checks are in the mail)

congrats Jane and Jen!!
Karen :)

jane, candid said...

Thanks, Joe for the pick, and thanks to Jake for hosting! (and add thanks to Karen from Mentor for encouraging me to even try my hand at this... oops, I mean my mother's hand). It was big fun!

Lettera22 said...


Jake, thanks so much for hosting the contest. I enjoyed reading the great entries. Joe, I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Congratulations Jane! Your entry was one of my favorites.

Thanks again!


p.s. Karen...this did happen to a guy friend of mine a few years ago. :)

Karen from Mentor said...

Jen, thanks for sharing that!
Karen :)