The Earth my sky, the Moon my siren

Hello everyone,

Before I get to my 55 word story, I wanted to say how I excited I am to post my first official entry as a Fictorian! I have guest posted here four times before, and I am both honored and thrilled to be made a full time member.

Now, on to my first blog post- -and it was a doozy! Write a story in exactly 55 words? It sounded like a fun challenge, but a difficult one. In the end I enjoyed the puzzle of writing the story so much, I documented my journey through double-nickel-land for this post. First I’ll give you the story, then if you want to stick around I’ll take you through my process of writing it.

***

THE EARTH MY SKY, THE MOON MY SIREN

The hatch is open, my radio channel closed. Alone I float through the stars, alone with her.

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. She whispers, reaching for my helmet. Without it, I will hear her better. Her hands and mine, both at my collar.

Who removes it? It doesn’t matter.

***

All in all, I’m pretty happy with how that came out. Funny thing is, I had my idea for the story pretty quickly after getting the assignment. In my mind’s eye I saw an astronaut floating in space, getting farther and farther away from his capsule. I knew he was out there because he wanted to be, but also against orders. (I acknowledge more than a passing nod to David Bowie’s Space Oddity in the imagery.)

The siren concept and the ending both came quickly to me and I was off to the races. Now the question was: how could I possibly tell this in 55 words?

So I figured first I’d bang out what I had using as brief prose as possible and count it up. This version (sadly?) is lost to the ether, but it was 70 words long.

“Great!” I said. “I’m only 15 words off. I’ll just squeeze it a bit more and count up what I have!”

That second version ended up 90 words long. Somehow my prose squeezing added 20 words instead of subtracting them!

Here is try #2, the 90-word version:

***

The stars are my world now. Outside the capsule, I am alone among them. Alone with my new friend.

She had beckoned through the window, called to me with a song I’ve heard on the wind since I was a child.

There is no wind here, as she floats with me. The capsule is far now, but she is close. With my helmet off I will hear the wind, feel the song in my ears. I cannot tell if it is her hands on the helmet seal, or mine.

It doesn’t matter.

***

So all the core concepts are there, and the ending is there. Still now I am 45 words away from my goal. I was, like my astronaut, drifting farther and farther away.

I decided on my third try I would just capture the core concepts in a few words as possible. No prose, nothing fancy. Just A to B to C and see what that count was.

Here is try #3, where I also started counting the number of words in each sentence:

***

I am alone in space, outside my ship (8)

A woman called me with her song (7)

We float off together. (4)

She wants me to remove my helmet to hear her song. (11)

Either she or I remove it, it doesn’t matter who (10)

***

Ok with the core concepts down, I did the math: 8+7+4+11+10 = 40

That gives me 15 words to play with. I could add a bit, and swap in some ‘prosier’ word choices.

I decided I wanted to add “The door is open, my radio channel closed.” as a first line – that’s another 10 words, leaving me 5.

Here’s version #4:

***

The door is open, my radio channel closed. (8)

Alone I float through the stars, alone with her. (9)

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. (11)

She whispers now, reaching for my helmet. (7) Without it, I will hear her better. (7).

Her hands and mine, both clasping the collar. (8).

***

Okay, still needs the big finish, what do I have left to work with? Five. Five words. “Who unclasps it? It doesn’t matter.” is six. Maybe I can cut one in one of the sentences above. I decided to kill ‘now’ in “She whispers now”.

Here’s a look at what I hoped was the finished product, version #5:

***

The hatch is open, my radio channel closed. (8)

Alone I float through the stars, alone with her. (9)

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. (11)

She whispers, reaching for my helmet. (6) Without it, I will hear her better. (7)

Her hands and mine, both at my collar. (8)

Who removes it? It doesn’t matter. (6)

***

I also swapped ‘hatch’ for ‘door’, which I think is better. I made a second minor change because I didn’t want to use ‘clasp’ twice. At this point, I decide it’s done and that is the version you read.

For 55 words I’m pretty happy with it – the major thrust of what I envisioned is there. I wish I had a bit more room for atmosphere and to show his emotions about removing his helmet, but I’m happy with the result.

If you are a writer (or want to be one) I encourage you to try a double-nickel challenge of you own. I found it to be a fascinating little puzzle and I think it grows some great skills.

See you next time!

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