I created fifteen original (slightly inappropriate) 100-word short stories based on Christmas greeting cards and I’m sharing one per day between today and January 6. For this creative exercise, I chose to embrace three constraints:
1.Stories had to be based on the greeting card. Both should be able to stand on their own while also enhancing each other. I found myself opening up the boxes in the store and improvising lines and themes, seeing what inspired me in the moment. Then, at home, some of those initial ideas stuck and others evolved and some even surprised me. For one story, The Last House, one look at the card and the story simply wrote itself. I really can’t think of any other way it could go!
2. Stories are 100 words, no more and no less. A writer can say a lot with 100 words, whether it feels like too much or too little. I certainly found some of these stories had to be broadened to get to 100 words while others had to be paired down. At least one was 100 words on the dot on the first draft, though I can’t remember which one and I gave it a little polish, anyway. 100-word short stories also harkens back to 2007-2012 or so, when Barry Hess and I had a website called Scrawlers.com to let people write, post, and workshop their original 100-word short stories.
3. Stories had to be slightly inappropriate. Believe it or not, it’s very easy to write a grossly inappropriate story. To pull back, though, to keep it just over but not leaping over the line was to exercise restraint. Ultimately, I think the stories are better for it. I tried to picture my intended audience for each and that helped me reel back in a healthy way. It also helped me surprise myself, like in Santa + Bear + 1980s Reference, which went in a dark yet much-less-dark direction than I initially thought it would.
I invite you to give this exercise a try. Special “shout out” to my friend and MFA peer (and an excellent writer and teacher), Luke Rolfes, who first introduced me to the fun of writing stories based on greeting cards.
One final note: by using and posting the artwork of the photos, I mean no disrespect, copyright infringement, or to make any money off this creative exercise. If there’s a legal issue to discuss, please contact me, thanks.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy. Here they are:
#1 | Eating Healthy
#2 | That Old Silk Hat
#3 | Just Right
#4 | Mr. Claus Goes to Washington
#5 | The Stocking Cap Five
#6 | A New Kind of Christmas
#7 | Santa Bear
#8 | Dashing Through the Snow
#9 | See You Next Christmas
#10 | The Santa Snare
#11 | The Little Things
#12 | Jolly Old Folly
#13 | He Usually Knows If You’ve Been Good
#14 | The Stocking Cap
#15 | The Last House