Steve and I did a fun and interesting writing exercise together some time ago. I meant to write a post about it then, but as often happens, life got in the way. I forgot.
But lucky for me, while searching my computer for another file, I came across these sentences and now I have a post idea for this sunny, but frigid Monday morning!
Our little writing project began after listening to a few of the twelve hours (yes, twelve hours) of The Great Courses audio program on “Building Great Sentences” :
Great writing begins—and ends—with the sentence.
Whether two words (“Jesus wept.”) or a sentence in William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom!, sentences have the power to captivate, entertain, motivate, educate, and, most importantly, delight.
By the way, here’s one of those Faulker long sentences:
From a little after two o’clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that — a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes filled with dust motes which Quentin thought of as being of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.
Personally, I think sentences can be too long. I lose my train of thought and have to start over again. But perhaps that’s more a judgement on myself and my reading abilities that it is of the author.
It appears I’ve meandered away from talking about our writing prompt. Here’s what we did:
- We wrote the first twenty sentences that came to mind, with little thought about those sentences.
- We then picked a few of those sentences and lengthened them according to some of the guidelines discussed in the “Building Great Sentences” audio course.
So, here are the twenty sentences I first wrote. The sentences I chose to expand are in blue:
- I love dogs.
- Driving makes me happy.
- Blue used to be my favorite color.
- I’m hungry for a bear claw.
- We’ve missed three episodes of 24.
- Not sure when I’ll exercise regularly again.
- I need an oil change.
- I can’t wait for Santa Fe.
- Tommy’s smile is the sweetest.
- Family above all else?
- Let’s paint something.
- I miss the ocean.
- The wind whispers secrets to me.
- What does Scarborough Fair mean?
- Soon I’ll be moving again.
- I’ve had a good life.
- What’s new for today?
- I have more than one secret.
- I have much to be grateful for.
- Maybe we’ll get a dog soon.
And here are the expanded sentences I wrote:
I love dogs, though I’m not sure if it’s the memory of dogs that I love after nine months of not seeing my beloved Jubie and Bear, which, as I think about it, is long enough to have brought a new life into this world, though not long enough to lose memories that can still bring tears to my eyes.
Blue used to be my favorite color, until one day I realized I don’t have to be limited to only one, because why shouldn’t we be allowed a multitude of favorite colors out of the thousands that exist in the world, and so, today, I love azure blue and eggplant purple and taupe and shocking pink and…
We’ve missed three episodes of 24, a show I’d waited for three years to return, but when at last it did, I’d found someone to replace Kiefer Sutherland, a man who takes me on adventures I’d once only dreamed about, and who entertains me so, I forget to turn the television on.
“I need an oil change” was just another thought that popped into my head as I wrote these twenty sentences, and it was true in the literal sense, until I read the one sentence in the context of the twenty, and then I wondered, with a bit of trepidation, if instead it was meant to be a metaphor because feeling rather creaky and old lately, perhaps an oil change would help me run anew.
Tommy’s smile is the sweetest, his grin so big it crinkles his nose, so full of happiness it trickles through to his arms and legs until they flail with joy, so ready to be shared it overflows and spills onto whoever is lucky enough to catch the contagious joy of a child.
Let’s paint something, meet in a room with bright colors and brushes, where we’ll work together but separately, talking as we paint, until, hours later we have created more than one masterpiece.
I miss the ocean, but when I see the boundless blue complexion of the sea, smell her salty aroma, hear all that she whispers to me, I realize she is like a dear friend, who, though I may not have seen for years, makes me feel like I never left her side.
I have more than one secret, though to some, I don’t have many secrets and to a very few, I have none, which is a wonderful, freeing feeling compared to the weight of secrets I shared with hardly a soul in the past.
These were first draft sentences. Some need some polish and refining. Still, I think they are so much richer than the first twenty. Maybe that’s why I like editing so much. My first draft is like sketching in pencil. The editing is like adding the color and texture.
Give this exercise a try. I think you’ll enjoy it.
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