Words - By Brian Law

“I must say, Mr. Byron, your resume is impressive,” the owner of Oneminutereads.com said, his eyes gazing out over the document in his hands at the young man seated in front of him. “But despite your admirable literary achievements, I really wonder if you’re right for our little organization. We’re not exactly highbrow, if you know what I mean.” 

Jack Byron smiled and was prepared for this question. It was the 800 pound gorilla in the room and they both knew it. Why would someone who graduated from Columbia with an M.A. in English Lit, who had penned three short novels before he was twenty-seven, and who regularly had his essays published in literary magazines around the country, want to write cheesy short stories for an upstart website? He would have to have a plausible explanation, which he thought he had. 

“Yes, well, let’s start with my novels. They sold a total of just under a thousand copies. Oh, and my father bought seven hundred of them. And as for my essays, I am paid a trivial amount per word and they are probably read by fewer than two thousand people a year. So, I guess what I’m telling you is that I want to reach a broader audience with my talent, and I think your website will precisely do that,” the young writer related. “That’s it in a nutshell.” 

The owner pondered the young man’s comments and then added, “But this is demonstrably opposite of writing a novel or an essay. There’s no time to develop intricate thoughts or to create interesting characters. You have to do everything in an incredibly few words . . . setting, plot, characters, conflict, and themes. None of our ‘reads’ can exceed one thousand words. You understand that don’t you? Won’t your impressive brain get frustrated within those confines?” 

The young writer nodded and answered, “Well, I understand the strictures you present for your writers. My plan is to start by writing a story of, say, three thousand words. Then I’ll start my rewrites, getting it down to two thousand words, then down to fifteen hundred words, and finally all the way down to one thousand words. It can be done and done well. Here, I’ll prove it to you.” 

With that, he handed four separate documents, each carefully labeled, across the desk to the owner with the statement, “I’ve just handed you four versions of the same basic story. One version is about three thousand words, the next two thousand, the third fifteen hundred, and the final story is just under one thousand words. Now, if you would take some time and go through each version, I am confident you will attest to my ability to work through the confines of your requirements without frustrating my impressive brain.” He smiled, put his hands together on his lap, and waited. 

The owner looked at his watch and saw that he just had enough time to read through all the versions and then decide. As he thumbed through each version, the young writer could hear the owner mumbling to himself, sometimes nodding his head, and once even letting out a loud guffaw. Finishing the final version of the story, the owner laid the document down on his desk and looked across to the young writer sitting there with his hands folded together in his lap. 

“Let me tell you something about me and our readership before I tell you what I think of your story, Mr. Byron. First, I’ve never read anything longer than a couple of thousand words in my life until now. Never read a novel nor many magazine articles. I’ll admit it, I got a short attention span. But so do all my readers, too! They’ve never read any novels, either, or anything longer than most comic books. But let me tell you something, young man, they will read this rip-roaring whopper of a story you’ve written! Yes sir! And if this is any indication of what you can produce, you’ve found yourself a home here at Oneminutereads.com, son!” 

Jack sat up a bit straighter and thanked the owner for his vote of confidence in his writing ability. And he added that he looked forward to being a productive member of his stable of writers and to write as many ‘rip-roaring whoppers’ as he could conjure up. Then he asked, “Did you have any questions about the final version of the story, sir?” 

The owner looked at his watch again but was so excited he decided to be late for his next meeting. “Why ,yes, I do have some questions. Now, this ship captain, this Ahab fellow, he’s obsessed about killing this White Whale, right? Now, am I right in thinking that his basic motivation is  . . . . . .” 


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