Tiny stories. Big impact.


Inspired by an urban myth about Ernest Hemingway, I’m inviting you to write a tiny story and share it with me.

I’ll display my favourites (with full credit to their authors) when I appear at Chapters bookstore, 1037 Wellington Road, London, Ontario on January 30 to promote my second novel, Missing Steps.


It’s alleged that Ernest Hemingway once wagered someone $10 that he could write a complete story – with a beginning, middle and end – in just six words. He won the bet.

The story went like this:

“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Whether the incident happened or not, it shows that when it comes to packing an emotional punch in fiction, size isn’t everything.

More recently, The Guardian newspaper issued a similar challenge to authors in the UK. Write a complete story in one tweet of 140 characters or less. Not quite as stringent as Papa Hemingway’s challenge perhaps (his story was only 33 characters long), but their responses further proved that good things indeed can come in tiny packages.

And so, I’m inviting you to give it a try. Go on. Write your own story in 140 characters or less (including spaces) and post it as a comment to this article. I’ll display my favourites (giving their authors full credit) when I appear at Chapters bookstore, 1037 Wellington Road, London, Ontario on Saturday, January 30 (11:00-2:00) to promote my second novel, Missing Steps.

Looking for inspiration? Visit The Guardian. Or consider the following effort by yours truly:

“You left your hairbrush at the cottage. On the mantel, behind the photo of my kids. Ann found it today. Don’t contact me again.”

It’s not like I’m asking you to write a novel. (Believe me, way more of a time commitment.) Go on. Give it a whirl.

And if you’re in London on Jan 30, drop by Chapters on Wellington Road and say hello.

23 thoughts on “Tiny stories. Big impact.

  1. Two email entries from Margaret Bailey:

    “I used to think we were ordinary. Dull even. I didn’t know then that ordinary and dull could leave such a hole in one’s heart.”

    “Eventually I’d have to tell them the truth. But just for today “Sorry, it’s snowing too hard. I can’t make it” would keep it all together.”

  2. Two email entries from A Elizabeth B:

    “Once again, same position, no condom, no withdrawal-pregnant once more, no one cares-least of all me.”

    “How could you? You promised me no one would find out if I did that –thing. You never hear me, and now you won’t have to.”

  3. Email entry from Sue Sutherland Wood:

    “Five minutes to order a latte – and then you demand a bowl. Steel wool hair. Your ringtone is Mr.Roboto. I leave quickly by the back exit.”

  4. ‘The house on the hill, and oh, how the bay glittered—like a veneer of silver,’ she said. I adjusted her pillow, found her hand. ‘And then?’

  5. Three email entries from Sheila Warnock:

    Floating in the pool at the Hilton she whispered “Thank God I’m alive.” Nearby a man was reading the headlines. Hostages Released Today!

    The sun was blazing. Pompeii felt so familiar.
    His mind erupted with memories long past.
    Silently he pledged “Carpe Diem!”

    After years of illness and suffering he was finally released. So was I.

  6. Five email entries from Sheila Cook:

    I found salami and cheese in the fridge after you left my B&B. Does this mean you’ll be back to finish what we started? Receipt attached.

    At the Perseverance Workshop, I got a name for my future self. Call me Cliff Jumper. Watch me soar, or crash. Self-esteem is next weekend.

    Long johns. Warm socks. Wind pants. Jacket. Boots. Scarf. Mitts. Toque. “I gotta go pee! Damn this middle age bladder.”

    Wrinkle Farm, that’s what we residents call this place. Body, mind and spirit collapse inward. Today will be my last fold, I can feel it.

    Set goals. Maximize your RRSP. Jo drained her wine and tore the statement open. “Shit, shit, shit. 10 more years in the stinky dish room.”

  7. Two email entries from Andreina China:

    The key fit the lock. Open the door to a new life, or walk away.

    He got home, late yet again. Laid his head on the steering wheel, sighed, then exited the car.
    Looking down, he walked slowly to his house.

  8. The child rose early to show him the puppies. The porch was empty. Old Anna dragged a heavy bag. “She’s got them inside cos of the rain I bet!”

  9. It couldn’t last. She did laundry monthly, dishes weekly. He did dishes daily and laundry weekly. He found Simon’s note in her back pocket.

  10. The heat wave ended on a bad note. The sweat dripped, my arm slipped into the wrong chord. Backstage I pulled on my sweater and sobbed.

  11. A month abroad had changed her. She could now cope with her disintegrating marriage. The cab left. Her key didn’t fit the lock.

  12. An email entry from Rosemary La Marra:

    If a soul falls at your feet, it is your responsibility to pick them up. It is these deeds that touch and change our hearts and souls for the better.

  13. This was a fabulous idea, Paul. I know it’s too late for the Jan 30 deadline, but I thought I’d add my effort…
    “Eve bought a book in an antique store. She didn’t know it was about her life.”

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