Day 16 – Very Short Story by Julie Duffy

day 16 writing prompt cover
Write a story using this helpful prompt from Julie Duffy

The Prompt

Tell a story in 50 words

Imagine someone has taken away something your character cares about deeply, to the point where their focus on its absence feels obsessive.

Tell us that story in 50 words


Think through everything that would matter to your character, then distill, reduce, concentrate all that you would like to communicate to the reader.

How little can you say and still have character, tension, change, imagery?

You could write about the moment when it’s just a threat to take the “something” away. How hard will they fight to keep it?

The “something” could be a physical object, a person, a right, or an anticipated reward…

Remember: the reader doesn’t have to understand it on first reading.

You should feel free to use your title to tell us a lot.

Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is the founder and host of StoryADay, its challenges, community and podcast. For more prompts and deeper writing lessons weekly, throughout the year, subscribe to the StoryAWeek newsletter

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23 thoughts on “Day 16 – Very Short Story by Julie Duffy”

  1. I’m late but I’m here.
    Loved this challenge. Accidentally took it to 100 before remembering this is a fifty-word challenge. Scaled it back successfully.
    Fifty words about a lost project.

  2. I’m late to this one too, (catching up) but I wanted to let you know, Julie, I really enjoyed the challenge of tight constraints. Good content prompt too.

  3. Commenting late, wrote on time!

    I had fun with this one too 🙂 and the 50 word limit was challenging of course!

    I wrote about someone who carried around an empty notebook and was super attached to it because it was kind of a symbol that it wasn’t too late to start writing. As long as they had this notebook, they could believe their potential was still there waiting for them. But because it was so beat up and even waterlogged, their mom (thinking she was doing a favor) threw it out and got them a new one. This was pretty devastating!!

    Also thank you for the hint to use the title, I ended up not having to use the word “notebook” anywhere in the story because of that.

  4. Humiliation at the Hands of Our Rivals

    I expected to lose. I didn’t expect our players to roll over like dogs expecting a belly rub. Look at the other team. Champions. Dancing in a circle like schoolboys. Guess we need to show what happens when they disrespect Espanyol like that. Hundreds agree with me. To the pitch!

  5. Good prompt. It was a traveling day and I was able to get it done before we left home.

  6. This was fun! I like the limitations of some of these prompts.

    The Breakup

    John welcomed Astrid’s silence. Had she finally forgiven his cheating with Erica?
    The communications dish now secure, he pushed off to swing around the nose of the shuttle—and kept going. He slowly spun away, looking back to see her drop the severed tether and return to the airlock.

  7. I’d had my wallet when I walked in. Now, at the checkout, it was gone. Credit cards. I.D. Car, Road, Medical Insurance. My whole life.

    I ran through the grocery store. How would I eat, live?

    HIM, emptying MY wallet! Grabbed a red wine, clocked him. Grabbed his wallet too.

  8. 18,250 donuts.
    Soap bubbles swirl around the trap-cut emerald as she leans over the dish-filled kitchen sink and tugs at the ring that would soon be vandalized by a doctor’s dremel because her loving husband, may he rest in peace, had brought her a honey-glazed donut every single day for 50 years.

    1. That is fun! An intriguing title and the story makes sense of it in the last phrase. Nice work.

  9. I thought this one was going to stump me, when I surprised myself by tapping into my anger at what has been taken away from me (and many others) in my country in the past few years. Fifty words made it feel like writing formal poetry.

  10. I Foresee Another Trip to the Pet Store

    He sits on his haunches, motionless, staring at the counter.
    “Nope, you’re not getting it.”
    A soft whine.
    “I can’t trust you.”
    Soulful eyes turn to me.
    “You’ll shred it.”
    He quivers but holds the sit.
    A hopeful wag.
    I cave and drop the toy. What’s one more?
    He pounces.

  11. Another quick one. Started out at 59 words, cut it down to 51 and then realized I’d used 2 words where 1 would work, and got it to exactly 50. A little more with my selkie character.

  12. May 16 2023

    The Locket in the Museum

    After years, it was right in front of me. But what could I do? They watched my every move! I showed up every day, staring, waiting for the chance to take it back to my family’s grave and restore the balance of what they stole. That chance never came.

  13. A Psychic Banter in The Mirror:

    “You’re pretentious, outright dishonest.” Same Face sulked.

    “Don’t you dare…… My honesty is everything I live for.” I threatened.

    “If that’s so, go proclaim to the world how you disrobed the virginity of The Innocent.”

    “No big deal, but hurting others digging out old wounds isn’t my cuppa.” I apologized.

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