Even though we can’t meet in person, I’ve been meeting with my teen writers from the library virtually for the past few months. I decided to hold a writing contest for them over the summer, so we’ve been going over things like editing and word choice.
For word choice, I gave each of them a different picture and told them to write a scene. Then I had them narrow down that scene to 100 words, then 50. The idea was to keep going until they could write a 6 word story, but we didn’t get that far because we ran out of time. But the point of the exercise was to show them how to convey the same idea, the same feelings but with less words. To choose more precise and strong words.
As always, I participate in the writing prompts with them so I thought I’d share what I did. I haven’t narrowed it down past the 50 word mark–and I’m not sure if I can narrow it down further without losing the idea–but it was an interesting experience to get it under the 100 mark and then the 50 mark.
Here’s the picture I used:
First draft (136 words)
The rope thickens around my wrists, digging into my skin. It tugs, dragging me across the sandy beach toward the mirror.
At least the tide had subsided, the waves no longer latching against my ankles like leeches clinging to flesh.
I dig my fingers into the sand, searching for something–anything–to grasp. To tug me to a stop. To prevent the mirror from embracing me again. But my fingers sift through empty sand, unable to find anything to grip on to.
I think about my promise to Evangeline. That I’l never leave her again. That I’ll stay here, in this mirror world, until my last breath.
But the rope tightens. It pulls. It tugs.
My arms ache, my skin is rubbed raw from the coarse sand. I close my eyes and let the mirror swallow me whole.
Less than 100 words (91 words)
The rope digs into my skin. It drags me across the beach toward the mirror. The tide no longer latches against my ankles like leeches clinging to skin.
My fingers search for something–anything–to grasp. To stop me from falling back into the mirror.
But there is nothing but sand.
My promise to Evangeline rises in my mind. I’ll never leave you. I’ll say here, forever.
The rope thickens. It tugs. It pulls.
My muscles burn. Coarse sand rubs my skin raw. I close my eyes and let the mirror embrace me.
The thick rope drags me across the beach to the mirror. My fingers search for purchase but only find coarse sand.
A promise lingers on my lips. I’ll never leave you. I’ll stay forever.
But the rope tugs. It pulls.
I close my eyes and let the mirror swallow me.