If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, then just how many words does a writer need to tell a story? I asked a few writers this question. The responses ranged from 4000 to 200 words. Then I asked one of them;

“Can you do 30 words?”

Dalle Abraham was skeptical. “You mean 300?” He asked.

“No. I mean 30 words. Three with one zero.” I told the coolest man from Marsabit.

The shortest story ever written by Ernest Hemingway goes like this; For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn. Those were just six words. But it is a complete story with an opening, body and ending. Narrative Magazine did something around the same. See here. There is even a Twitter account for six word stories; @sixwordstories.

I figured, if people have written stories six words long, then it would not be an impossible ask to request for stories with a maximum word count of 30. Sindio? So I asked a few writer friends to take part in a project. The brief was simple: Write a story in 30 words or less.

These showed up in my inbox;

***

Abigail Arunga
She stares into nothingness. Alone, in a white jacket. Through the window, he sees her reach out to touch something that only existed to her. He writes on the clipboard.

Adebisi Adedun
8 years old and married
To a man I could call papa,
8 years old and pregnant
With a child I won’t live to love
8 years old praying for death

Alexander Ikawah
CHARLESTON
He aims the gun at the first one. He’s singing; eyes closed, palms heavenward. It is a good thing he is going to heaven. Slaves will be needed there too.

Anne Moraa
Walking away from the bin, she felt relief, though she couldn’t stop her tears. “Someone better than me will love it,” she thought, her baby’s cries fading into the night.

Basit Jamiu
(a) “Say your last prayer.” He pointed the gun at me. As he motioned to pull the trigger, someone from his back came through to him first. I am never alone.

*

(b) I am Solomon Grundy. Everything you’ve heard about me is true.

Beverly Akoyo
(a) Only older men could love her. Boys her age and younger, though curious, were revolted by her body, growing outside her.
Then he came and told her, “Let’s run away.”

*

(b) Mother says she’ll have two glasses. ‘No more than that.’ But by the end of the evening, she’s calling him a bad influence. It’s her seventh one. Neat this time.

Ciku Kimeria
ESCAPING MOHELI
On the edge of a cliff in Moheli, I battled wind, kicked my fear, punched the cold, as I leaped into the dark foreboding water screaming “Ancestors! Take me home!”

Dalle Abraham
(a) MUEZZIN INTERRUPTUS
Halima crouched, bui-bui held to her henna-ed body while Mutwiri waited, erectrified, for Muezzin’s call to pass. When she rejoined him he was limp, rubber tugging like an old sock.

*

(b) 8-4-4
In the classroom she mocked and taunted him, to mask last night’s shame. She changed faces and deflated, in public, erections she died for in the dark, where green flies buzzed.

*

(c) COST OF LAUGHTER
“Mum, today Dad pricked me with his bone ”
She cried and laughed. Yesterday, thirty years ago, I learnt the cost of those tears and wished I could afford that laughter.

Dayo Adewunmi Ntwari
“Tree! Please  hide me!” Hairy hands clutching branches, fingernails scratching dead bark. Whimpering at the sound of raging dogs in the distance. Black birds’ red eyes staring curiously.

Elchubbinho
TWO BLUE TICKS
Fuck. She’s read that. Too much alcohol. Bad decisions. No reply. I love her. My data bundles, done. No Response. Fuck it. More Vodka. Two Blue Ticks. No regrets.

Faith Linyonyi
‘So what do you do?’
‘Eat. Sit. Shit. Basic human stuff.’
Six months later. I’ve changed my birthday to April 1st because only fools get addicted.

Harriet Anena
“You’re so sweet.”
“You’re sweeter.”
“You want another round?”
“Hun, I was earlier trying to tell you I have HIV.”
“Dear God, what bullshit is this?”

Ian Arunga (Dear Doris)
Blood dripped from the knife she held. Her husband and a woman she barely knew lay lifeless on the floor. Everything was silent until a baby girl crawled into the room.

Jackson Biko (bikozulu)
I’ll be back, she said. A lie. Daily, he waits by the window, holding a cup and the lie in the other hand. He waits until he becomes the lie.

Jude Mutuma
Mother said the man in the picture was dead. Then one day the doorbell rang and the brown face at the front door said “Hello son.”

Judyannet Muchiri
At their first breath she locks eyes with them. She hopes the heavens for them; sees heaven in their eyes.
Time.
They know hell; become it. Break her heart.

Kate Hampton
GREEN AND WET
She wanted two.
He wanted more.
This will be their eighth.
Every day, she watches the hills.
She wonders if they’re still beautiful.

Laolu G
He strung his punch-numb wife to the new car she bought sans his consent, drove to her ongoing bungalow, left her and a carton of strawberry malt, her favorite.

Lilian Nyambura
He looks at me just as I have pictured it a million times before. Why now? I don’t know whether to run to him or run and hide.

Magunga Williams
(a) STILL
Ruth, my wife, is sweating as my excited camera points at the doctor. Red on his hands. But why is the baby not crying?

*

(b) I DON’T
The church clock now says 1pm. The tux is burning me. Sweat soaking up inside. She still isn’t answering her phone. I know she won’t. Fuck! I need a drink.

Mehul Gohil
(a) A forest of Uganda along the way. The bomb blows. Buses of illegal immigrants on the border.  The machines rust. The PlayStation’s lust to graphic traffic terrific horrific magic tragic.

*

(b) Mboya’s walking out of a chemist shop. Shots to-the-heart stereophone inside a hundred thousand city ears. Jomo’s photo, hanging in every shop on the avenue, shakes, moves out of position.

*

(c) Acres of factory space. She leans to look at my English sentences. After Fridays of office work.
“If you say goodbye, do you again hope for a hello? ”
She’s gone. 

Moses Kilolo
He closed the door and leaned against the wall of his own empty room. Fresh memories of many voices singing his praise, except for the aching absence of her voice.

Obinna Udenwe
BREAKDOWN
Her brother said, ‘You will find her at the University Clinic.’ When he saw her, chained to the bed, he recalled the first time she sucked him in his car.

Oduor Jagero
DAWN
I woke up with a swollen face, desperate, and heavily pregnant. Closing the door quietly behind me, I left, because if I didn’t, his chang’aa demons would’ve killed my child.

Olubunmi Familoni
FUCK THE TALK
Conversation limping along, joints broken by ellipses. Until: fingers questioning inside trousers; not a whisper of response.
“Take your wife off and hang her in the closet for one night.”

Ras Mengesha
(a) “I saw her.”
“Who?”
“My dad.”
“Oh. How is he…I mean, she?”
“I don’t know. We didn’t talk. We haven’t talked since the operation.”

*

(b) “Why don’t you pack your bags and go?”
“No, I want to stay here.”
“Why?”
“Because when I left, I lost my place at home.”

Richard Oduor Oduku
THE HYPERBOLIST
It is a place where everyone has a sad story to tell, he whispers, sometimes children come from the forest with human bones in bundles, as firewood.

Sarah Lebu
In the morning two men holding hands hid their faces. By noon they hugged publicly. Yet before dusk, they married rightfully.  Now I am afraid of tomorrow.

Sima Mittal
At 42, the caterpillar crawls out; seeking respect and reason. Chewing leaves of faith, it enters into its ‘writing’ chrysalis. The butterfly emerges out with wings of freedom and rediscovery.

Tony Ontita Mochama 
“May you lie in your coffin, ragamuffin,” roared the priest by way of dasvidanya, “and may your corpse shiver in the July chill.” No one wept. The day remained dry-eyed.

 

Replies

About Author

27 Comments

  1. I got to know about this from a writer friend. It’s laudable. Would have tried my mettle. Reading through all the posted stories, it’s not different from the feeling longer stories stirred in me. Well done to the contributors and the initiator.

  2. Ian Kinanga on

    You must have been a Noise maker in school to tell a story in 30 words.A complete story in 30 words.You are gifted people under the sun,donge?
    *30 words used*

  3. He stared in the mirror. She stared back, mocking him, enticing him, flirting with him. Him, that is her in him.

  4. Fights, anger, immaturity, pride, hopelessness. Two years later. Love, happiness, kindness, sunshine, friendship. These traits and more are what the two love birds live by. Marriage is on the way.

  5. I know today’s story telling session is over but I could not resist participating while the juices are still flowing. Here it goes:

    He got into the house and left the door ajar.
    Before long punches landed on her.
    “Why does she stay?” I wondered.
    Soon after she lay on the floor lifeless.

  6. She was not slender like her. Her hips were all over the place. She said: you told me you loved curves? He said: I lied. She died, still walked on.

  7. Too young to know freedom. Naivety was his sin. He threatened him with punishment; that loitering was bad manners. As the bushes swayed back and forth, a young boy was innocent no more.

  8. She rushed out of bed to wash the nipple discharge before he could see it. She intended to keep the wigs on for as long as she could.

  9. He hit her once, she prayed to God to change this man. He hit her twice, she told her mother she was unhappy. He hit her thrice, she realized she had to go find herself some new cheese.

  10. Ojo Margaret Tolulope on

    Sitting by the lamp-stand. She stares into the stars. Finally believing it that destiny can not be averted.

  11. Ojo Margaret Tolulope on

    When they came to make the arrest. She cried foul. It was later discovered that indeed she was the criminal.

  12. He leaned over the railing, contemplating the 17 or so seconds of freedom before he was met with the finality of the concrete 33 floors below. “They probably won’t miss me.”

  13. Wow.these stories inspired me to write.so damn good…
    “As she lay dying,five thoughts consumed her like the TB in her lungs.Her first time.Her love for money.her lover with AIDS.His oblivion and now hers.”

  14. “Mboya’s walking out of a chemist shop. Shots to-the-heart stereophone inside a hundred thousand city ears. Jomo’s photo, hanging in every shop on the avenue, shakes, moves out of position.”

    Now that is a masterpiece.

  15. We fell in love the first time we met. Then he found out. I had to make a choice. I chose family over love. He’ll forever be in my mind..

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: