A Short Story only requires two words. A subject/object and a verb. A short story draws on the author’s ability to elicit emotion and conjure up imagery. It also very strongly relies on the reader’s ability to fill in the gaps, drawing from recognition of history and culture reference.
A reader who has not learnt Christian tradition, not read the Gospels would not be moved by the words “Jesus Wept”. However, one who has, will draw upon the development of Jesus as a powerful prophet, the Messiah, a god – able to control nature and just days before the incident inferred able to raise a girl from the dead. And yet, here he is, faced with the death of his best friend, and his best friend’s weeping sisters – Jesus wept!
“I loved him with everything I had. He loved me back with the tender caress of his fist against my ribcage.”
90% of my test readers attached violence to the fist in my creation above. This quotient felt that the ‘tender caress’ was a reference to ‘a punch’. Only 10% suggested that perhaps ‘he’ had callused hands and so chose to literally caress ‘her’ ribcage tenderly with his fist or rather ‘a closed hand’.
90% of my test readers assumed the ‘I’ was female. Only 10% hesitated and wondered if it could be a male.
Based on the comments & observations above, select a short story you wrote before, select a sentence in it, and imagine how, in the context of both your story and culture, a reader would interpret it.
Have fun imagining! Then think about it next time you spin that story.