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Atomic Stories

In January, Mona's Fiction, Poetry and Experimental Forms Editor Lauren brought you 22 tips to improve your writing and in February, she outlined the upcoming competitions to motivate you to write this year. In March, she leads you through a range of writing exercises, designed to help you get started on that piece or address the dreaded writer's block. First up are atomic stories, brought to us by the Narrandera Writers Group.

You may have heard of story beats or atomic narrative, terms that focus on the smallest units in a story, its building blocks, if you will. A beat or an atom is usually a moment in fiction, and thus when you develop a significant beat, you can often develop a scene around it and therefore it's a great place to start!

Where to start? Try some of these exercises! It's best to have a character or setting in mind for each of these situations.

  1. Write 30 words of dialogue and description that summarise your character's reaction to someone cutting them off in traffic.

  2. Describe in 20 words your character doing something they enjoy.

  3. Write your character's shopping list in 20 words or less, an use this to communicate something important to the reader about your character.

  4. Write the final 50 words of a story about a woman who is finally freed from an oppressive relationship (romantic, friendship, familial).

Image: Wikimedia

This week's examples of atomic stories come to us courtesy of Narrandera Writers Group in NSW, one of the writers groups that Mona has been so lucky to work with in the Riverina. The group meet once a month, usually on the first weekend of the month and they set themselves a monthly writing challenge. Recently, they challenged themselves to write Atomic Fiction, short stories of no more than 25 words. If you live in the area and want to go along to one of their catchups, contact Hilary Manning at

Alice: Getting out of bed seems like everything I can’t be bothered with and my body thinks so too.

Hilary: 1. Grit. Determination. You congratulate me, after you kick me down the stairs, on my resilience. Me? Just dandelion seeds, blown about in the wind, trying to catch hold. Still trying.

Sue: 1. Leaning in, close but lips not touching, two audible intakes of breath, a last intoxicating moment where everything is possibility.

2. Fingers trace my skin, light touches like angels' breath, I rouse and turn but yet again I dreamt your hands.

3. Eyes closed she hears his steps, smells his skin, feels his breath upon her neck, turns and finds the empty air.

4. Gondolas and gondoliers, canals and palaces, the past alive within the present, and glowing softly, the light is pink in Venice.

5. Ghosts of holidays past, white sand footsteps, dolphins in the sapphire waves, sun kissed skin, hot chips, gulls and Hawaiian Tropic.

Tracey Lewis Sanders 1. A baby when his dad died. He grew up a man with a sweet smile and a wicked way. Gone.

2. I could tell she needed something. Sit down, I’ll wash your hair. I touched her and she cried, "I needed this."

3. I’m warm and moist, here under the earth. The sunlight is calling me, I’ll plant my roots now and grow.

4. When we woke up, the sun was shining, birds were singing. I looked out the door. We were here.

5. As darkness fell, the worries of the day slowly disappeared, but sleep still evaded her, trapped in her own mind.

We want to see YOUR atomic fiction! Comment below with your atomic story and share it with the Mona community!


IT'S ALMOST HERE! Have you pre-ordered your copy of Mona Magazine Issue Two yet?

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