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This is a short story I wrote for a contest with a six-hundred word limit. It’s called “Six-hundred”.

One day Bob invested in a spaceship and spacesuit, making this a science fiction story.

He had lots of zany, exciting adventures, but unfortunately I can’t relate them here because of this contest’s extremely inhibiting six-hundred-word limit.

On a related note, how do you people expect a self-respecting writer to create characters the reader cares about, or a plot worth following, in such a short space? One hardly considers six-hundred words a story.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. After Bob had all those well-worth-reading-about adventures, he settled down on Planet Cabbage and met a girl he really cared about. A week later they had a candle-lit dinner, where lots of character development went on.

Turns out Bob is a little nervous around new people, especially of the female persuasion, but once you get him talking about his favorite subject—stupid contest restrictions—he’s on fire. We the readers have learned to love Bob. We can really relate to him, and we are eager to see what happens next.

Suddenly a plot convenience walked into the restaurant, and informed Bob and the female love interest that Planet Cabbage needed them. The Planet was under attack by the Polly Wogs, an alien race with a really neat history and culture, who of course you will learn nothing about here.

Bob, of necessity a man of few words, didn’t ask why Planet Cabbage needed them specifically, and during their first date no less. Instead he saw this as an opportunity to impress the female love interest, and so he strapped on his Mega Laser Flinger 2000 (overcompensation) and hopped in his spaceship.

Once they’d attained orbit and saw the overwhelming swarm of Polly Wogs, and had finally stopped giggling at the aliens’ silly name, Bob and the female love interest began to get a little worried. Not only did the Polly Wogs outnumber them a gazillion to one, but the word limit was fast approaching.

Thinking quickly, Bob fearlessly jettisoned the female love interest into space, which served to distract the Polly Wogs as he high-tailed it back to Planet Cabbage.

Cowering under his space-age bed in his futuristic bedroom, Bob realized something: in only 363 words, he’d fallen in love with the female love interest, and he didn’t want her to die. Luckily for him, as any disciple of Douglas Adams knows, with a lungful of air it’s possible to fend off asphyxiation for thirty seconds. Unluckily for him, the female love interest had been picked up by a Polly Wog flyboy in that half-minute, and she’d immediately fallen for the rugged extraterrestrial. Their marriage was already well underway.

Of course, Bob didn’t know this. He soared back into orbit, donned his spacesuit, and jumped in his spaceship, not necessarily in that order.

He rammed into the first Polly Wog ship he saw, mashing the two vessels into one. Predictably he had chosen correctly, and deeper inside the alien craft, those gathered in the small chapel—installed for those unexpected interracial marriages—felt the tremors of the impact.

Bob leaped from the wreckage of his spaceship and charged into the bowels of the Polly Wog craft, dodging bullets, fleeing guards and generally being a nuisance. Finally he reached the chapel, barreled up the center aisle and stuck his Mega Laser Flinger 2000 right in the groom’s ear.

The female love interest swooned at Bob’s bravery, and the Polly Wog minister recoiled in disgruntlement. “Should I stop?” he asked mid-ceremony.

The groom remained cool. “Don’t worry about him,” he said, meaning Bob. “He only has four words left.”

Bob frowned in confusion.

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimberley Walsh permalink
    01/05/2011 10:29 PM

    Please tell me this won?

  2. Candice Pinsent permalink
    01/06/2011 7:43 PM

    I remember reading this! Brilliant.

  3. 01/14/2011 4:28 PM

    Very funny! I love the writerly jokes and the Douglas Adams’ stabs. :) Congrats on winning too.

  4. 03/07/2011 3:25 PM

    self-aware sci-fi dramedy! my hero

  5. MCal permalink
    05/10/2011 10:37 AM

    I want to know what happens…

  6. 09/20/2011 9:50 PM

    Hey hey … well done … and fiction is a skill that I don’t have… so I applaud your efforts … and this for directing me here! John has to see this one.

  7. John Erickson permalink
    09/20/2011 10:07 PM

    Great stuff! Unfortunately, it would have never flown with my high-school English teacher. A guy who could read “The Canterbury Tales” AND loved Douglas Adams. (He introduced me to “Hitch-hiker’s Guide” in sophomore year.) He’d want detail AND tighter writing.
    That’s why I went into computer programming. As long as the syntax is correct, a computer doesn’t care HOW many words you use. (Including four-letter ones – especially four-letter ones. :D )

    • 09/22/2011 12:15 PM

      Your English teacher sounds awesome! Anyone whose tastes span from Adams to Chaucer is all right by my books.

      I’d love to learn some computer programming. I’m afraid the breadth of my experience to date includes screwing around with QBasic as a kid.

      Your right, the writing could definitely be tighter. (In fact, I think that never stops being true, no matter how much a work is revised.) Fitting in more detail would be a bit more difficult, given the 600-word limit, but still doable. I’ve never revised it since submitting, though–I wrote it in high school and I’m sentimentally reluctant to change it.

      • 12/29/2012 3:29 PM

        Ah, yes. Stories are never finished, only taken away from us. Still, you have to let your little ones leave the nest someday. How else will they get to show the world their wings? God, that was cliched. Can I get a do-over?

  8. AYSHA_WORLD permalink
    05/08/2012 6:38 PM

    Thank you scott bartlett for reading your story. You have very attractive style and imagination in writting short story. Happy to read for you everday.

  9. 05/31/2012 8:06 PM

    I desperately want to know what happens to Bob…

    Excellent work, loved the satire, and the strangely engrossing little space epic.

  10. Carlos Stracci permalink
    06/14/2012 2:36 AM

    It was very good, congratulations!

  11. Madeline permalink
    06/15/2012 3:53 PM

    Brilliant, thanks!

  12. 06/19/2012 10:03 PM

    Great read. Very funny.

  13. zZatya permalink
    06/20/2012 10:10 AM

    Brilliant !!!

  14. 06/21/2012 8:29 AM

    This is very clever; I like the way you show how you know the ‘rules’ of plot development and flout them to make your point about not having enough words to use them. And it’s funny; always a bonus!

  15. 07/23/2012 2:47 PM

    This is absolutely fantastic.

  16. Anonymous permalink
    07/30/2012 2:32 AM

    Wow. You’re clever. Too bad you couldn’t write the story asked for. Read e.e cummings’ “The grasshopper,” and tell me you cant tell a story in less that six hundred words.

    • 07/30/2012 6:41 AM

      I’m not trying to tell you a story can’t be told in six-hundred words. It’s…a joke.

  17. 08/09/2012 5:00 PM

    That’s such a brilliant idea – I love it!

  18. 08/20/2012 1:32 PM

    Nice nod to Douglas Adams, and very clever writing!

  19. 09/13/2012 1:44 PM

    I like your style. See you around Twitter!

  20. 10/04/2012 10:30 PM

    Loved it! Can’t wait to check out your book.

  21. 10/18/2012 6:37 PM

    Very clever and fun writing style! A fun read.

  22. 10/21/2012 3:04 PM

    Loved it! And I see it won :) It definitely deserves to!

  23. 12/17/2012 5:15 PM

    Lol, nice. :)

  24. 12/18/2012 12:21 AM

    This works. Well done.

  25. 12/26/2012 1:56 PM

    scott – this is absolutely hysterical! thanks for the great laugh.

  26. 01/22/2013 8:11 PM

    Loved this! And I’m not really a Science Fiction fan! This is cute =)

  27. shainur ullah permalink
    01/23/2013 3:08 PM

    The baby that never cried

    There was a little baby that never cried, the father who was divorced from a terrible woman, who didn’t want to look after the child. The father was looking after his baby daughter but struggled to know, when she was hungry or hurt because she never cried. He has to wake him self up early in the morning to wake his baby daughter up because she never cried. Eventually he made a time table to feed her so she doesn’t starve.

    Now the news and media itself heard of this strange baby and what the father had to do to look after her and found some fame. The mother hearing of this wanted her daughter back, so she could have some fame and the court agreed, the mother could have he child back.

    1 year on… The father came to the realisation of his ex-wife who was a useless mother not knowing of a baby not crying could do much disadvantages, like not knowing when the baby is hungry or hurt. So the father rushed to the house and knocked. The door opened.

    ‘the baby how is she have you been feeding her?!’ father asked frantically

    ‘well she is never hungry and never cries and she has been Smelling weird lately as well’ the mother replied

    The father rushed up stairs and in front of him a dead baby.

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