[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time

This week’s prompt revolves around taking a very short span of time (impossibly short) and stretching it out over the length of a complete short story.

Quick question before I get onto the prompt. We’re having a discussion on the Advance List about the possibility of doing a bonus StoryADay in September. I’d love it if you could share your level of interest in this poll

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Thanks! Now, on with the prompt!

This week I read a great new novel called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. One of the many remarkable things about this novel is that almost all the events in the novel happen on one afternoon.

I heard the author talking about this. It was a deliberate decision on his part, a challenge to himself to see if he could (with very few exceptions) avoid flashbacks or set-pieces that happened out of the timeline of the book’s one day. He also didn’t want a mystery or huge amount of suspense to pull readers onward. I was so intrigued that I had to get hold of a copy and see how he pulled it off.

Of course, he did it by

  • Creating compelling characters, letting us inside Billy’s head as he experienced his thoughts in real time
  • Never letting the authorial voice intrude, (showing us, not telling us)
  • Avoiding cliches, inventing fresh imagery, and generally letting his unique writing style (in this case a break-neck, not-quite-stream-of-consciousness style) shine through

So this week’s prompt revolves around taking a very short span of time (impossibly short) and stretching it out over the length of a complete short story.

The Prompt

Write a story in which all the ‘action’ takes place in only a few seconds.

(For example: perhaps your character is a woman who has been staying in a job she hates simply because it’s easier than leaving. Your story might take place entirely during the few seconds it takes her car to hit a patch of ice and skid across two carriageways. Every sight, sound and smell would conjure up memories, thoughts, reminiscences)


  • Start in the middle of the ‘action’
  • Go inside your character’s head and experience the physical sensations in ‘slow-motion’
  • Insert the character’s memories and experiences of other people in between the slowly-unfolding moments of the story. But avoid doing full-blown ‘flash-backs’ where you stop the action to show a scene that happened in the past before flashing forward to the next stage of the action.
  • Don’t worry about making the moments unrealistically long. Our brains work so much more quickly than we realize, on a sub-conscious level. That’s why the story of ‘what happened when I met Crazy Dave in line at the Post Office’ always takes longer than the actual incident.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Just A Moment  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yP

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is about real-time storytelling #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yP

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yP

See my story – and write your own, today: A Short Story in Real Time #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yP

One thought on “[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time”

  1. Just found your site and had to have a go at this prompt – most of my flash is written in around half an hour, and I love the idea of an entire story only covering a moment in time, so I thought “Well, you’ve down two of the three things listed here, all you’ve gotta do is write the story!” And here’s the link:


    PS – I stole the name of the story from your post Just a Moment.

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