Writing tip Wednesday: “Locked Room Challenge”

Stuck in your story and don’t know where to go? Maybe this will help.

by David E. Booker

Locked Room Challenge

Among some science fiction writers there is a challenge known as the shortest story. Someone once said the shortest science fiction story was: “Last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” Then somebody else made it shorter by writing: “Last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a lock on the door.” Ernest Hemingway reportedly wrote the shortest story that went something like this: “Newspaper ad. For sale. Brand new baby shoes. Never used.”

What does this have to do with being struck?

Ernest Hemingway at typewriter

Ernest Hemingway at typewriter

Maybe nothing, but maybe when you are, take your protagonist or even your antagonist and make him or her the last person on Earth. In a locked room. Then there is a knock on the door. What does he do? How does she react? Maybe it is a very small room and your character is already feeling very anxious because he hates being in confined spaces. Write out what your character would do. A few hundred words. Five hundred at most.

Or maybe your character reads the ad or has to place the ad. Why did he have to place the ad? Did he lose a child? Did she break up with a man who had a child and she can’t return the shoes because they are a discontinued brand, but she has to do something with them. Does she need the money? Maybe they were expensive shoes. Or maybe they were bought years ago and she forgot she had them still and is now moving and can’t take them with her.

Or think of a scene of your own. But it has to be a scene where an important decision has to be made and one that affects the character emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually – at least two of the three.

Often a writer is stuck because he doesn’t understand something about at least one of his characters, and doing this can help uncover a layer of the character that is important to the story. Who knows, what you write might even become a scene in the story or novel you are working on.


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Filed under 2016, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

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