Day 2- New Words on an Old Theme by Julie Duffy

Today’s writing prompt encourages you to keep things short

StoryADay Writing Prompt Illustartion

The Prompt

Write a 100 word story inspired by an aphorism


Remember: the prompts are only here as inspiration if you need them. Some people decide to write to all the prompts no matter what (to force themselves to stretch), but you can play any way you want!

Writing a 100 word story is a wonderful way to warm up and get some writing done even on a day when you are busy. It’s not necessarily faster to craft a 100 word story than it is to dash off 1200 words, but it is incredibly satisfying, and it sharpens your word-choice skills.

Today I’m going to suggest that you choose an aphorism or proverb to inspire you story (here’s a handy collection).

You’ll need to choose a character who embodies (or defies) the message of the aphorism, pop them in a situation where they can take an action and, ideally, give us an idea of how they are changing through their experience.

100 words isn’t a lot, but I believe in you!

If you need some inspiration here is a site full of 100 word stories.

Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is the Founder and Director of StoryADay.org. She began thus challenge in 2010 and is proud to have encouraged thousands of writers, since then. She never tires of hearing from writers whose StoryADay drafts turn into published stories, or gifts for friends, or other forms of art, so do please keep in touch!


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Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Remember: I don’t recommend posting your story in the comments here (and I talk more about why not, here). Best practice: Leave us a comment about how it went, or share your favorite line from your story.

80 thoughts on “Day 2- New Words on an Old Theme by Julie Duffy”

  1. I’d forgotten how difficult writing 100 “good” words to make up a story can be. Having said that, I managed to crank out something worthwhile, though it was a bit slower going than I’d initially expected. Still, another story down.

  2. I enjoyed reading the aphorisms others chose and all the directions you all took them. Interesting and wonderful!

    I chose “Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” but in the story found myself quoting “if it was easy, everyone would do it” instead. I wrote about someone realizing that despite their best intentions, forcing themself to do work they dislike has put them in a role that goes against their values, and they have to decide whether to keep doing it (and maybe retrieve the sunk cost of getting there) or quit (and admit difficulty alone didn’t make it good).

    I found out the truth of not having time to write something short, since it’s 1000 words ‘:) but the little I was able to cut in the time was really fun to do, and I’d like to come back and try for that 90% reduction when the challenge is over. And I felt like overshooting the word count by that much even when I was trying to write 100 words pointed out to me how I might work on cultivating this skill. Which I never would have known without trying! Limits truly are amazing

  3. Finished 100 word flash/micro fiction story entitled Favor based on an aphorism from The Baal Shem Tov.

  4. Mine was based on “Even after the wound is healed, the scar remains.” I have a surgical scar on my wrist that looks like Harry Potter’s lightning scar. I wrote a short story about his mother giving up her life to save him and my mother destroying my music career. It was 142 words. I rewrote it and it was 141 words. I will chisel it down later. Everything keeps coming back to my wounds. My story. I guess I’ll just accept it as what it’s supposed to be right now.

  5. I picked the Comanche proverb, “All who have died are equal” and used it for the backstory meeting of two of my linked characters (1 alive, 1 not). It also helped me decide some rules for my “not physically alive” world. 106 words, pared to 100. I’m happy 🙂

  6. Oh my… 100 words feels like so much but I looked up and there I was at 200. Scratch that… I’ve had a headache all afternoon and I think it’s turning to a migraine but I’ve done it. finished bob on at 100 words.

    Partial excerpt….

    “I think, in truth I needed a better question. With better questions we get better answers. And here I am, many years later, and still plagued by the same stupid question I’ve never asked “How do you plan a story?” Maybe it’s time to ask. “

  7. I ran with “Hope often deludes the foolish man,” and—though it’s certainly a 100-word story (I have a knack for getting the word count just right pretty quickly)—it turned out oddly poetic in nature, with a good bit of anaphora involved. This is new for me, for a drabble! I’m usually counting on every word to be new, different, uniquely telling. Yet the repetition works quite well for the deluded fool. Thanks for the fun prompt and the (*massive*) list of aphorisms!

  8. I chose: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? A favorite of my Dad’s when I was a teen. I finished at 109 words. The process of cutting words was interesting. My last story had more punch that the ones with more information. A good lesson.

  9. I forgot how much I love 100 word stories. I chose the aphorism:
    “Don’t interfere with something that ain’t bothering you.”
    Thank you so much for the link. What a great resource.
    I finished it right at 100 words. I enjoy the challenge of getting it to the exact number.

  10. I only got it as low as 113 words, oops. I used ‘Only a fool lives poor to die rich’ and wrote about a man who scrimped and saved all his life only to leave his wealth to his cat.

  11. I wrote something different for today about the decline of a way of life on an island, but I also wrote another story to the phrase, “You can’t sit on two horses with one ass.” Yes, it’s southern, I know. Chose. Our lives are made up of our choices, small and life altering. We have to make a choice or one will be made for us either by fate or by someone else. Now I’m one day ahead of myself. Yay!

  12. My angry teen from yesterday gets betrayed today! “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead” by Ben Franklin gave me the story spark I needed! I hit 100 words exactly on my third try- it’s hard for me to write “short!” There’s conflict, emotion and even a way forward at the end. Lots of fun!

  13. I wrote 456 words based on the Sioux aphorism: “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Then I took the next hour to get it down to 100 words. I like the longer version :-), but appreciate the exercise.

    1. I know the feeling. What I’ve been doing with these is keeping my original writing .. and then copy/paste below it .. to edit it down.. and continue that process. Cutting more and more but still having that original writing on the same document.

  14. Slow start, but the once I decided on the aphorism, the story came quickly (96 words). I used “Even after the wound is healed, the scar remains.” It’s based on a true story about my husband trying to help a neighbor’s Jack Russell. Over the past two years, he and the dog became the best of friends. Easter Sunday a large dog attacked her. Trying to get her to safety, she bit his hand. His hand is healing, but he will always have the scar, a visible reminder of his little buddy.

  15. Day 2 FUN – I love slicing and dicing a story to meet a word count. Inspired by “Be not fooled – magic does obey the laws of nature”.

    It’s a coming-of-age story for an elephant named Victus. Victus learned the herd was in danger just like his grandfather had “known” things that saved their herd in the past.

    Fun fun , I love reading what everyone is writing!

    1. Me too. I love these tiny stories, that take work to carve away to the essentials. Such good skill-building.

      And your protagonist is an elephant? Love that.

  16. It is impossible to reply to every post. BUT I promise to read all the blogs each day. It is on my Lunch to-do list. I love how a single prompt takes us all in different directions.

    1. You are under no obligation to read them all of course, but I do find it inspiring to see how one prompt can spark so much creativity and joy.

  17. A 100-word story is pretty much in my wheelhouse. I like to write 100 words exactly, not counting the title. I used the “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” but had the main character deliberately ignore the advice. It’s a fun prompt. I’m thinking I’ll write a 100-story in response to every prompt, as a warm up, but then also try something longer.

    1. Oh, I’m definitely intrigued to see where your character ends up. What a fun idea.

      And yes, I’ve done years when I aimed for a 100 word story every day. (I let myself off the hook on days when, as Pascal allegedly said, I didn’t have time to write something shorter…)

  18. I also used the quote Every fire is small at first. –Seneca.

    I enjoyed it at 33 words- with errors mind:

    Every fire is small at first. You didn’t plan to be an arsonist, but the smoldered remains of Handseneca’s latest million dollar construction site adds the title to your resume anyways.

    But I expanded it to 148 words. I’ll cut it down later and maybe do another one later on today.

    I love drabbles and the book you shared Julie is sooo dangerous. I’ll probably be using it for Instagram captions for months 😂

    1. I love your micro-fictions, Courtney.

      And that is a great idea for an Instagram project. (Am I following you? Must check. IG is still not my comfort-zone.)

  19. This was a fun and inspiring exercise! I wrote about a saying my very frugal grandfather frequently used “A nickel in time can save you a dime.” He felt small amounts of money spent wisely and accounted for would add to the money available for future investments.

    1. Ah, thank you. that was the one I meant. It’s run by Grant Faulkner who is the NaNoWriMo Supremo. I find it hilarious that he is head of NaNo and yet writes 100 word stories fur fun 🙂

  20. WOW! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the collection of aphorisms! Talk about story sparks! I want to write a dozen stories of 100 words using them as springboards. Thank you, Julie, for sharing them and for this exercise. So fun!

  21. I went with a Danish proverb: “A tight cord is near snapping.” Finally got the story down to 98 words, although I came close to snapping myself, LOL. My favorite bit, left almost unchanged since I wrote it: “He weighs his chances. What he wants. What he can yet have, what he cannot. The nearest neighbor, a day’s trudge. Hallucinations: bright lights, warm air, a splash of crimson across a snowy floor…”

  22. This one was really difficult for me. I wrote a poem titled “Remember Me” based on the Dakota aphorism “We will be forever known by the tracks we leave.” It’s not quite 100 words and it’s truly not a very good poem, far from my best work, but well, there it is. I’ll try to tweak it as the day goes on.

    1. Ah, but we’re not here to do your best work. We’re here to do work…which might teach us something or might become our best work one day when we’ve had a chance to polish it 😉

      Good for you for letting your not-best work get done. It’s where we have to start a lot of the time if we want to make progress (you know this. I’m saying this for myself as much as anyone else, even after all these years of writing)

    2. I did it! Three days late, but I wrote a 100 word story. I used the same aphorism as I did for my poem. My story is titled “World’s End” and it’s about a young woman waiting for word from her agent about the publishing of her collection of poetry. Just after she hears she got a contract, a solar flare ends her little world.

  23. I’m starting by brainstorming a list of possible aphorisms to use:
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
    Dance with the one what brung ya.
    It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
    Go or get off the pot.
    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
    It’s better to fart and bear the shame than not to fart and bear the pain.

    Can you tell I descend from earthy stock? I wrote my first 100 word story a few weeks ago. I’m excited to fiddle with this prompt today!

  24. I went with You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I did, unfortunately, go over by 22 words. Fun to do though.

    1. That’s pretty close and I bet you could shave them off if you really wanted to. However, for now, take the win and give yourself the rest of the day off!

  25. I did pretty made today and I went a bit over 100 words. I couldn’t decide between two aphorisms so here’s the two i tried to incorporate into my really really short story. “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.” And “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

  26. I based my 100-worder on Seneca’s : Every fire is small at first.
    I entitled my story “A Near Murder”.

    I’s reading out from “The Happy Prince” to my class, when –
    “MEOW,” pierced my ears.
    Someone wanted fun.
    With a quick look-around, I found all engrossed in the telling.
    “Do as I command you,’ said the Prince.”
    I’d hardly proceeded with the next line when the cat meowed again.
    A student chuckled.
    Having lost my cool, I tried giving the impression to the culprit that I still wanted to continue reading.
    I looked for the suspect from behind the book.
    Third time proved lucky for me.
    He narrowly escaped from being murdered that day.
    The end

    1. I spent many years working retail. I always told my staff to smile and nod when a customer misbehaved. It would make the customer crazy.

      Revenge a wrong by ignoring it.

      Morgan smiled, “How can I help?”
      “I need my doodad. Now.” Eddy slammed his hand down; pencils rattled in a glass jar.
      Morgan smiled. “Do you have your order number?”
      “134673” Eddy muttered scanning his emails.
      Morgan smiled. “I need seven digits.”
      “Useless.” Eddy looked back at his phone. “1349673”
      Morgan smiled and typed.
      “Well?” Eddy leaned over the counter trying to read the screen.
      Morgan smiled. “It will be ready tomorrow, as promised.”
      Eddy scrolled through the email. “Oh.”
      Morgan smiled.
      “I’ll be back tomorrow.” Eddy stomped away.
      Morgan grinned. “You have a nice day, too.”

      1. Hahaha. I always took pleasure in being super-pleasant to angry customers. It confused them and also helped me make them happy, faster.

        (It might have been an evil-tinged pleasure, I admit…)

  27. Finished my story early today. I used “A lie travels farther than the truth.” A character from yesterday’s story is still battling a reputation that he doesn’t think quite fits him, but it’s the way people continue to see him.

    “The Playboy Player. Or was it the Catting Around Catcher?”
    Rhys scowled. “That’s not who I am.”
    “You don’t have a new girl on your arm at every off-season function?”
    “Not always a girl.”
    “That’s not the way it looks from the papers.”

    1. I love the use of dialogue and just that one ‘scowl’ to give us context. Masterfully done.

  28. I liked this. I set the timer for 30 minutes and cranked 2 aphoristic stories out based on the most excellent document you steered us towards via that link. Then, as I had a little snack to stimulate my imagination, I came up with an aphorism of my own:

    A pitted date and a cockroach look very similar.

    And now my protagonist hates me! I can’t think why!(Yellow goo, anyone?)

  29. A picture is worth a thousand words. I interviewed a Vietnam vet yesterday who is deaf due to his service to our country. Our conversation has consumed my thoughts. This prompt helped me tightly frame his story. Thank you for the extra resource, too. This is a great workout.

      1. I believe it will be, Courtney. I guess ignorance is bliss but it doesn’t help the hurting. Apathy is as bad, and I’m only speaking to myself.

  30. Loved it! I was worried about Monday and the start of a busy week, but 100 words felt doable and ditching words to fit the “100” tightened it without me overthinking. I adapted the proverb to fit, and didn’t chastise myself for not including it in it’s original glory. All of that felt really good. I feel unleashed. (I’m even excited to see what happens when I hit a day and feel “stuck” because I am already circumventing tendencies which usually stagnate my efforts.) So happy to have found Story A Day =)

    1. “Unleashed” is huge win. I’m so happy.

      And don’t forget, titles don’t count towards the word count. Just sayin’ 😉

  31. This is one of my favorite prompts. So much fun. Love that you added a link to that “handy collection.” It’s fantastically overwhelming! Great resource. Might need the whole Day 2 to find the perfect one. (I’m very indecisive, you know.)

    1. I’ll be honest Judi, I read the prompt and reverted to something else I had in progress already.
      100 words are always a great challenge.

    2. Judi! I loved the collection of quotes as well. I love the 100 word prompt but always have trouble with it. I know I need to be more concrete than I normally am, and I think more abstractly!

      1. The 100 word prompt always seems like it should be faster than other stories, but it really is a lot of work!

      1. You might have— my brain is running amok!🤣 (whatever that means. Ooh I should look that up, and maybe find a story spark!) See?!

          1. I chose “We will be known by the tracks we leave.” A Cherokee saying.
            I wrote about a teacher and her impact on the many students she touched in her career.
            I counted 98 words. Of course, if I put “The End.” it is 100. but that feels like cheating to me.

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Registration for 2024 open now-June 8, 2024

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