Deconstructing a 25-Word Story

car 25 word story juxio
I’ve been tinkering with 25 word stories over at Twitter for the last few months, and find it interesting to pack a punch in such a short amount of space. Someone called this “restrictive writing” but I find it challenging to find a way to leave out as much as you leave in.

Yesterday, I wrote the above story (recast on Juxio) and as I was driving my sons to their various basketball games, I started to think about all that was going on with the sentence. Later, I found that a bunch of people had retweeted it on Twitter, which made me think it was one of those small gems that strike a chord with folks.

So, a little deconstructive reflection:

  • I’m not sure where the story concept itself came from, since I have never really been stuck on the side of the road and my father doesn’t talk like that at all. And he’s no mechanic. I started with the idea of winter (my 25 word stories seem to reflect the seasons) and snow and went from there. In my mind, I saw a car off the side of the road.
  • I can see the character — a man, maybe in his 20s, still young in years — sitting alone and cold on a stretch of wintry road, stuck in his car and suddenly remembering his father’s warning. I imagine the character to be resentful of the advice, and also kicking himself for not heeding it.  There’s some inner conflict going on in the silence of the car. It turns out his old man was right all along. But that doesn’t help him one bit right now.
  • The father is one of those “I told you so” characters, for sure, and he is always spouting off one bit of advice, told harshly, after another until all his children hear is white noise. I can see the father as a bit rough around the edges (the use of language is my giveaway) and yet, he wants to impart knowledge on his kids. Too bad they don’t listen.
  • The interesting thing is that we are in the present with the story – the man remembering his father is stuck — but how did he get there? This is where inference has to come into play, and imagination. I imagined he hit some black ice, and stalled out on the side of the road. His heart has finally stopped racing and now he has to come with the grips with what to do (where is his cell phone?)
  • And then, the aftermath: after he is found and helped (probably by AAA or something) does he tell his father that the advice was right all along or does not say a thing? It all depends on the trajectory of their relationship, doesn’t it?

OK, so I plunged deeper than I probably needed to go here, but I find it useful to flesh out the story beyond 25 words. The 25 is only the start; the real story unfolds outside of our field of vision.

Peace (in the words),

PS — Are you on Twitter? Search for the #25wordstory hashtag to read more stories and add your own.

  1. I think it’s a cool medium in its own right. I haven’t taken the plunge but I do enjoy your gems and Brian’s. There’s a power in the wondering… they feel like Haikus. Sure, you can move them beyond the 25 words but I think like the 6-word memoir there’s a place for them in their own right.

  2. Hey Kevin,

    Thanks for taking the time to deconstruct this! I’ve been toying with the idea of using 25 word stories in my classroom for a while now, but knew that my students would need help seeing beyond the 25 words to the real story. This will serve as a great model for them.

    By the way, your 25 word stories are the highlight of my day when you post them. I really enjoy the creativity of them.

    Rock right on,

  3. Kevin,
    I love these stories, and have found that my students love them, as well. I have used some different ones to teach inferencing to my 5th graders, which was really powerful. We all discovered that you have to be able to add something of your own to these stories for them to make sense. I hadn’t thought about having the students try to write them…maybe next semester!


    • I haven’t done the 25 word story yet with my students yet, either. We have done 6 word memoirs, and some kids got it and some, didn’t. The inference part of this kind of writing requires critical thinking for the readers and for the writers, for sure.

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