This actually dates back 3 years today, but worth another airing, I feel.
A murder story in under 100 words
A writers’ group I belong to were talking last Tuesday about the discipline required to write short stories. So, as an exercise, I gave myself a maximum of five minutes to write the world’s shortest murder story. Murder stories are not my natural milieu, but I know the basics. To prove murder in a court of law, you need to provide evidence of means, opportunity, and motive. This has the whole lot in 97 words. Here it is.
‘Robert? Don’t you like the crumble? It’s your favourite.’
Robert put down his spoon, pushed back his chair, and stood. He walked behind the old woman, grasped a heavy cast-iron skillet in his right hand, swung round and hit her as hard as he could on the back of her head. She slumped onto the table. He hit her again and again and again. Hot, sticky blood and brain tissue splashed his face, his clothes, but still he went on pounding. The frail body lay against the tabletop.
That would teach her not to make lumpy custard again.
There you go. Just under four minutes, and 97 words. Means, opportunity, and motive. Easy peasey.
Even better, it has the slightly surreal humour you lot have come to expect from me.
Given this macabre performance it may be they want to bar me from the writers’ group. But I think not. I know they can all take a joke. I hope so anyway. I surely do not want them waking up in the middle of the night wondering about that strange noise you just heard downstairs.
Joking aside. With short stories we tend to imagine the backstories. We have to, since we have little to work on, by definition. It’s a short story. Now you may have noticed that I’m a bit of an obsessive. So when I’d written this bit of nonsense, I went back to looking for the backstory, which I genuinely did not have in mind. I got as far as Robert, repressed, living with his mother,or grandmother, possibly, or ageing aunt. Yada yada yada.
But here’s something weird. Have a go. It’s no more time wasting than playing Freecell. Ignore the cheesy punchline; ignore the joke and look for the backstory. Then, and this is the weird part, change Robert to Roberta. Since I’m an obsessive, I was dickering about and tried this. I won’t say the world shifted on its axis, but there’s a whole new frightening dimension to things if the killer is a woman. I felt so, anyway. But then, I’m an obsessive. What do I know?
Now that really is obsessive, isn’t it? Reading my own stuff and looking for hidden meaning.
Sorry, the thorazine must be wearing off.