The "Mike Drop" stories

Having recently finished the Story A Day May challenge, I am full of opinions on writing short stories. And how could I not be. I've just written (almost) 30 stories in 30 days. On top of that, I read just as many (and more) on /r/writingprompts to see how others handled various topics.

It wasn't long before I saw an issue with the short stories there and my own short stories. These stories boil down to what I call "Boom, mike drop" stories (for reference: deadpool mike drop). Stories that end with a big drop of information, a twist, one that will leave you speechless as a reader but as a writer, you don't have to answer for or explain.

You just write. You setup the story, follow what the reader may think you'll write about, and then twist it in the end without an explanation, leaving everything open-ended.

That's what /r/writingprompts is pretty much about. After about the first 10 stories that I've written, I got into a habit of writing in a specific format. What I call the "joke" format (setup->punchline) ending with a "Boom, mike drop":

  1. setup the story (a quick intro into what's happening)
  2. lead the reader along a predictable path
  3. astonish the reader with a twist
  4. leave

Here's a good example. I'm looking at a prompt: "A hacker finally solves Cicada 3301 after working on it for 3 years, and is admited into the secret society. What happens next?" link. I decided to brainstorm a bit and here's how the aforementioned steps play out:

  1. Johnny was always interested in solving problems. They were always an obsession for him. So much that if he encountered a challenge difficult enough, he'd drop everything else from his life. - The introduction
  2. When he stumbled on Cicada 3301, he knew he had the chance of a lifetime in front of him. And after 3 long years, he solved it. There was an address hidden in the message. Taking a bus to the location, he arrived and was quickly escorted by men in black. - Leading the readers to believe Johnny did indeed find the secret society and is being admitted.
  3. Johnny walked in, smile on his face. A man in front of him told him to kneel but as soon as he did, he felt the cold sting of a blade on his neck. Struck by fear, he dared not move. Unfortunately, that did nothing to save his life as the blade swing upward and down with enormous force. His last view was of his own headless body falling to the ground. - Boom! Twist! It's not a secret society, it was a trap to kill anyone who figured out the story, or was it?
  4. But why? Why would someone go through all that trouble? Who set the trap? Why did they kill people? No answer.

Go ahead and read the rest of the responses for that prompt and you'll see a similar pattern. As with jokes, you can add tags or additional "twists". Let's see one for the original story. Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, Johnny just died:

  1. "Hey, that doesn't look like Vince at all," the boss turned to the men in black. "What the hell, boss? You said grab the guy in the brown shirt, should be scrawny, standing right outside the warehouse, waiting for us." - And we find out Johnny's death had nothing to do with the puzzle. Or did it?

And you could keep going to your heart's content. Will that make a good story? Probably not. But quality of my writing aside, you get the point.

After about my 20th story, I grew sick of writing this way. I had to leave /r/writingprompts and start writing more esoteric stories that did not depend on the "mike drop" structure. It was difficult at first but it quickly dawned on me that I enjoyed writing stories with more varied structures and enjoyed them much more when reading them.