COMS 321 A College Critic Discussion

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Question Description

I’m working on a communications discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

Post an original 55-word short story. Include the word count so we know that your story meets the word limit. You can reply to other posts if you like. Although replies are not required, feel free to comment on others’ stories.

Richard Kallan discusses the value of writing 55-word short stories in chapter 6 of Renovating Your Writing. He argues that the form forces us to write more concisely and to “adopt a simple and direct sentence style” (p.111).

Elements essential to all stories are character(s), setting, conflict, and resolution. Kallan discusses these elements in chapter 6. A 55-word short story must result in the characters or readers learning something. Fifty-five words describing a situation where nothing takes place or interesting characters is not a story. Also avoid reworking old jokes or urban myths. Be original.

If you are having trouble coming up with a plot, take the advice of writer Sylvia Plath. “And by the way, everything in the world is writable about if you have the guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Specific requirements for 55-word short stories. (Courtesy of New Times of San Luis Obispo annual contest rules)

1. You can write about anything you like.

2. Fifty-five words are the maximum. If you have 56 words, delete one. A word is anything that’s in the dictionary no matter how long or short, including “a.”

3. A contraction counts as a single word. So “he’s” is only one word, but “he is” counts as two.

4. Hyphenated words do not count as single words. A compound adjective like “dyed-in-the-wool commie” is five words, not one.

5. A hyphenated word that does not become two distinct, freestanding words when the hyphen is removed counts as only one word. For example, “non-verbal” counts as only one word.

6. The title of your story isn’t included in the word count. The title, however, is limited to seven words or less. A good title can be helpful to your story.

7. An initial also counts as a word because it is an abbreviation of a full word. “A.B. Custer” would be count as three words.

8. An acronym (laser, NATO, ASAP, YOLO) or an abbreviation (FBI, CIA, SUV) count as one word.

9. Numbers count as words, regardless of how they are expressed. Numerals (8, 28, 500, or 1984) count as one word.  When express as words, the hyphenated rule counts. Thus, thirty-two would count as two words.

10. All punctuation is allowed. Punctuation is not included in the word count. Using punctuation effectively can reduce word count.

More Samples (in addition to the four stories found in chapter 6)

“The Bad Critic” by Richard Kallan

She hated my unpublished novel. She snickered at my budding screenplay. She thought my 55-word short story was too long.

Yet in all other respects my sister exhibited a fine, rational mind.

Years later I learned my novel was brilliant, my screenplay was magnificent, my short story was profound, and my sister was adopted.

“Only $5” by James W. Harris

SEE A WOMAN BURNED ALIVE! the marquee screamed. ONLY $5!

Inside, she was tied to a stake, coals piled around. She wore a bikini kind of thing. They lit a match.

She struggled and screamed. It took about ten minutes.

It was okay, but not as good as when they strangled that guy last week.

“Personal Ad” by Anon

Handsome, distinguished gentleman seeking beautiful, mature woman . . .

The waiter pulled out a chair and Megan sat down.

“Would you like a menu?”

“No thanks. I’m waiting for my date. I, um, answered a personal ad.”

He smiled knowingly and walked away.


She slowly turned around. “Dad?”

In his hand was a single red rose.

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