Tips on Tuesday: Writing a Five Minute Story

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Teaching writing classes, I often invite students to borrow my books on writing. I have dozens if not hundreds of them. Probably hundreds. One title which always attractions attention is Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes, by Roberta Allen. Of course. They think they can learn to craft whole books in five minute stints of time. That’s not the way great books are written. But they may start that way.

This book of ideas/exercises suggests writing workouts that could last weeks, months, or longer. These quick‑fire, down‑and‑dirty pieces may fire whatever lies dormant in you so that you can turn it into that “whole book” that’s been in your head for years. Using exercises like these prompts gives you a wide range of subjects to write about — remember these could turn into short stories, poems, or longer fictions, written 5 minute bit by 5 minute bit.

Below is a handful of altered prompts (loosely based on Allen’s work) to give you an idea, or a few dozen ideas, from one of its chapters. BTW, the book is still available at Amazon dot com.

You may choose to write the exercises in the order given, or choose a set that interests or excites you most, or least, or just feels neutral. Or choose the fourth item in each set, or write six different stories from one exercise. How many ways can you find to play this game?

  1. Use a reliable timer set 5 minutes
  2. Choose your first set(s) of exercises
  3. Read every line as if it begins: “Write a story about . . . ” though it’s not spelled out
  4. Set the timer
  5. Begin writing your first chosen “exercise” from these 6 sets

Write a story about . . . .

  • a fisherman’s tall tale
  • something that never really happened
  • a large bird
  • a lost letter
  • coming home after years away
  • a dreaded fear

Write a story about . . . .

  • an honor code violation
  • something found in a parking lot
  • a raucous celebration
  • a toddler
  • a surprise

Write a story about . . . .

  • an unexpected shock
  • a total stranger who approached you on the street
  • a moving moment in your life
  • a chance meeting with someone your family knew long ago
  • a cloud on a particular day
  • a group of children who are obviously quintuplets

Write a story about . . .

  • your favorite dessert
  • a prize you wanted to win
  • a swimming pool
  • selfishness on display
  • trying to understand a man who speaks another language
  • a very long . . . something

Write a story about . . .

  • two old friends
  • a starving child
  • going to another country
  • a simple action such as slicing a banana, or turning a page
  • how a serious illness befalls someone you know
  • an enormous . . . something

Play with these. Tie two or more from one set together in some way; try to write all six from another set into the same story; do every third exercise from each set in another story. Play! And let your mind, your imagination, go where it will! Most of all ENJOY!

See you next at Thinkin’ on Thursday!

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