Here’s a handy demonstration for my clients and fellow writers.
If you find yourself wondering what 50 words, 100 words, 250 words, 500 words or 1000 words look like, look no further.
Here is what different word counts look like on the screen.
Let me tell you a story. It all began one foggy afternoon before the wall clock struck five. I was sitting on the floor looking at the fire when I heard a voice coming from outside. It didn’t sound like anyone I recognized, perhaps it was all in my mind.
The windows rattled to let me know the wind was growing stronger. My grandfather set quietly reading across the room. He looked angry, even when he was happy. My imagination was playing tricks on me again. I shrugged and went back to my bombing campaign over enemy territory. You see, that same afternoon, my grandfather had built me my very own plane. It was made of solid wood, with no propellers nor turbines yet it soared and dived loudly right in front of my eyes. It was the nicest thing he had ever done for me. There it was again.
This time I was sure I had heard it. There was someone out there calling my name. I put my bomber down and got up. Interrupting my grandfather was a grave sin in our household so I made for the window alone. Once the warmth of the fire was behind me, fear became my companion. The glass was ice-cold when my nose pressed against it. I couldn’t see anything. There was only darkness outside. I looked and looked but the fog kept the night well hidden. I hurried back to the fire and that was when tragedy struck. A novice pilot had miscalculated the landing of his beloved plane! One of its wooden wings was being consumed by the flames. I sprang into action and tried to shake it off but to no avail. Mayday! Mayday! When my hand got hot, the bomber flew its last suicide mission straight into the heart of the fire. Terrified I turned toward my grandfather. His piercing eyes cut straight through me. He shook his head disapprovingly and went back to his book. Was that it? I felt like I had gotten off scot-free then I turned toward the wreckage. It was a terrible spectacle. My most prized possession, which I had owned for all of three hours, was turning to ashes and there was nothing I could do about it. Tears were streaming down my face when I heard that voice again. Whoever was out there, would pay for what they had done.
I woke up scared and alone in the middle of the night. My grandfather’s loud snoring reassured me he was sound asleep. The fire had gone out and with it, my last hopes of ever seeing the wooden plane again. The front door, a few feet away from by bed, was all that separated me from sweet revenge. I peeled off the blanket and slid into the muddy boots. Darkness gave me permission to the shotgun, otherwise forbidden me by grandfather’s watchful eyes. The lantern would have given me away, fortunately, I knew exactly where everything was. The only obstacle were the rusty hinges on the old door. I thought about it long and hard. Olive oil was going to be the solution. Finding it took some dexterity but timing my moves to the snoring did the trick. I poured enough on the three hinges then waited a few moments. The door slid open without making a sound. The wind had died down and the fog had gone back where it come from. The night was full of monsters but I only needed to kill one. I moved stealthily toward the woods where the voice had come from. Before I could reach the treeline the wind came up to greet me as if it knew I was there for revenge. Then I froze petrified. there was the voice again. It was coming from behind me calling my name and nothing more. It was the same voice that started this whole thing and now I was going to finish it. I turned around and started walking toward the shed. Only then did I realize there was something moving in the woods. I felt its eyes on my back. For as much as killing it felt like the right thing to do, it wasn’t what I was looking for. What I was looking for was right next to the house. The gun felt good in my hands. It separated me from the uncertainties lurking out there. The shed was wide open. I moved cautiously up to it without realizing clouds were taking away the moonlight. Once I made it up to the shed it was pitch black. There it was again! I jumped back as scared as I had ever been in my life. I was certain now it was coming from inside the shed. Only this time it didn’t sound as much as a voice as it did before but more as a short scream. I would have given my right arm to have enough courage to enter the shed and end it right then and there but I just stood there motionless. There are moments in a person’s life when the only thing left to do is prey. I had always heard about those moments but never suspected it could happen to me. But there I was, armed, cold, scared, and pious. Don’t ask me why it worked. By the third Hail Mary I was ready to kill once more.
Don’t hold your breath. This story ends like that. A child standing outside a shed wielding a shotgun. I suppose I could tell you our hero finally walked in and found the monster he was looking for, or nothing more than a rusty weather vane. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there. What I have told you so far, I have found handwritten on a few dirty pages in my grandfather’s attic. He had been dead for nearly thirty years when I read it for the first time. It was more like a story than a confession. As far as I knew, that was the only thing he had ever written. He had left it unfinished, just like his life. My father often expressed regret for never having spent any time with him during the last years. When my grandfather’s name comes up at family gatherings it is only to remind us youngsters of how hard his life had been. My grandmother leads the charge and everyone nods in agreement. A shameful way to hide our inability to formulate a coherent thought about him. I have few firsthand memories of him so what I know comes from my grandmother. He was a silent champion for the common man, working long hours in a foundry until it went out of business. She once told me in passing he was a communist at heart. She said it as if it didn’t matter but knowing he cared about something had a huge impact on me. My grandfather never got his share of the pie and yet was not bitter. He had come to terms with the fact that the system was rigged in favor of those born under the sign of the dollar. After further questioning grandma told me he would never miss a rally or a sit-in despite her protestations. He was the perfect nobody in a world of somebodies. My father never really knew him and his memories of his father didn’t have any depth. I was seven years old when grandfather died. The only things I remember vividly about him were his big hands and the one card trick he would always do. He would have me pick a card from the deck, have me look at it and put it back. After a good shuffle, he would always guess the right card. He was a handsome man who came from the poorest family in the village and married above his social class. My father tells me grandmother ran every single aspect of his life. Ironically that’s exactly the role my mother has in my father’s life. After reading his story I felt I knew him better than anyone did but still didn’t understand him. How come no one ever mentioned he was an aspiring writer? It’s because they didn’t know. He had never bothered sharing his work with his kids or his wife. He was too busy working to be a father. When my father was five years old, his father took a job up north. For the next ten years, they would only see each other for two weeks in the summer. I suppose grandpa did it so he could give his children a better life. Unfortunately, by the time he had saved enough to buy a home for his family everyone had gotten married or moved on. The empty rooms were a sad testament to his legacy. When he was back for good it was too late. They all went on with their life quietly resenting him for having grown up fatherless and he went on living with the guilt. From time to time, I’ve found myself resenting my father for not having spent enough time with us kids when we were growing up without ever realizing he never had it as good as we did. Now my father was an old man and I was sitting in the attic of a forgotten home holding in my hands the reason my life had turned out the way it did. In a strange and twisted way, it all made sense. My grandfather sacrificed everything so I could make my living as a writer. I no longer existed in a vacuum. As I was reading the pages, I was excited for the moment when I could tell my father and his siblings about my amazing discovery. Grandpa was a writer! But once I was done reading all the excitement had gone. What good would it do them know there was yet something else they hadn’t known about their father? Perhaps it would help them understand him a little better. Letting them know would have been the right thing to do but I was never the kind of person to do the right thing. This was the one secret my grandfather and I wouldn’t share with anyone. He must have had his reasons for keeping it to himself, who was I to change things. The next time I saw my father, I remember giving him the best hug I had ever given him. I kept those pages in my desk’s drawer after the house sold and every time someone would bring up my grandfather I couldn’t help but feel they were talking about an old friend. I knew him better than anyone because I had read his work. Their knowledge of him was limited to what he had been willing to share with them. I on the other hands had pried inside his mind. I thought about finishing the story for him but every time I set down to write the ending, nothing would come. It has been less than a year since my own son has learned how to write. By the time he’s old enough to understand, the last of his great-grandfather’s memories may be lost. Yesterday, I went up to our attic and hid those pages in a similar place to where I found them. Perhaps one day my son will be the one to finish this story.