Archive for November, 2006

A very short writing competition

A while back I wrote about author DBA Lehane who publishes a short story on his blog called Short Short Fiction every day.

This author has announced a short short short short short short story competition.

Yes – six “shorts” – meaning you have to write a story in just six words. Hemmingway did it with the deeply moving story: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

To read all the details of the competition and how to enter click here. The competition closes on December 31st 2006.

I haven’t tried writing stories that short though I have written many writing exercises in the form of short fiction with a maximum of 55 words, based on a competition that was run by a magazine some years ago. To read some of these stories click here.

I’m thinking of entering – how about you? Have a go.

Still More Short Story Starters

One day I have to run out of ideas for this series. Here is yet another set of suggestions to use as short story starters. Hope you find something in this lot that will set your creative juices flowing. Don’t forget to let me know how your writing goes.

Short Story Starters:

  1. Jack was not impressed. After all, wasn’t he the one who….
  2. Angela hesitated. “I can still walk away,” she told herself as she moved her finger towards the doorbell.
  3. It was the last thing Cindy wanted to hear. It was clear that her…
  4. Dan leaped through the opening. “Yaaaah!” he yelled. “At last I’ve….
  5. Carol sat up like a guard dog alert to an intruder’s footsteps.
  6. “How can you possibly think THAT!” yelled Tom. “When I was…
  7. Ellen noticed that her hands were shaking. Her stomach churned like a giant cement mixer. She felt like….

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

Related articles:

So there you go.

Good writing.

The Million Dollar Comma

A recent case in Canada shows that it can certainly be costly if you do not pay attention to grammar, and punctuation in particular. In a dispute between two companies, one a cable television provider and the other a telephone company, a single, misplaced comma in a contract cost a million dollars (Canadian).

The misplaced comma changed the whole intent of one sentence in the contract, according to a ruling from the telecommunications regulator. A costly oversight I would say.

To read the article in the New York Times about this incident click here. (You may have to register first.)

Idiom #5: A nest egg

This week’s idiom:

A nest egg


It is thought that this expression comes from the days before large batteries of laying hens were kept in cages in sheds. The farmer would place a porcelain or plastic artificial egg in each nest to encourage the hens to lay more eggs. I remember doing this on the farm where I grew up. I have no evidence that it actually worked in producing more eggs. To my way of thinking today, the hen will only lay an egg when she is well and truly ready. One cannot force the issue.


This expression has entered our language from that farming practice. Having “a nest egg” is to set aside some money as an investment for the future. Having such a sum is supposed to be an inducement to add to it, thus making the amount grow. Just like the false nest egg was meant to be an inducement for the hen to lay more, so too a nest egg of money was to encourage one to save more.

In today’s world of share portfolios, cash management funds, financial planners and the like this term is hardly ever used any more and seems quite quaint. One might only ever hear the elderly use this term, especially those who may have grown up during the Depression years of the 1930s.


“To save ten dollars a week from your pay would be a wise method of ensuring you have a little nest egg for the future,” advised Grandpa.

See also my article “What is an idiom?

Short Fiction #23 Oswald’s Love

Oswald’s Love
Oswald stared longingly at Vanessa.
“Come to me,” his aching heart whispered.
Vanessa went on talking, oblivious of Oswald.
“You know,” she said as she eased herself even closer to Albert. “We have so much in common.”
Albert smiled nervously as she stroked his arm.
“Let us walk in the garden,” she added, boldly taking his hand.
Oswald seethed.
They stepped out on to the patio, arm in arm.
Oswald’s envious eyes followed her every move. How he longed to be in her embrace.
They moved out of view.
Oswald settled more comfortably before the fire and his rumbling purr resumed.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2006 Trevor W. Hampel.

This short story first appeared in Freexpression magazine in June 1999.