The Art of the One-Sentence Story
If you really want to swim upstream with your writing, try the One-Sentence Story cure! A bunch of writers from all over the world tried it last year and came up with a book of stories written in a single sentence. It was so much fun we’re doing it again in spring of 2018. You’re invited to give it a try. And invite your writing colleagues to join the fun.
WARNING: This challenging project can become addictive. Check out the book of 77 One-Sentence Stories written by 43 writers and join the fun for One-Sentence Stories Book 2, to be published in the spring of 2018.
How Daring Can You Be?
You’re a writer. Probably one seeking rules to make your writing better. Well, how about trying an exercise to make your writing better that requires snubbing your nose at a rule you may have thought unbreakable?
Can you write a story in one sentence that might run as long as 2000 words? Dare you!
Here’s what you’ll learn if you do:
- How to outline the important points of a story;
- How to take apart a story;
- How to use parts of speech, especially conjunctions and modifiers;
- How to relax and have some fun with words.
This exercise may
How To Outline a Story
By writing in one sentence — as long as you need it to be — you give yourself the guidelines to tell your story in more detail. You gain a better perspective of what is important to keep the story moving along and how to better pace the action in your story.
Outlining may be as simple as: Three blind mice, see how they ran after the farmer’s wife who cut off their tails with a carving knife… (20 words) or as long as:
Three Blind Mice
Once upon a time three mice, who happened to be blind, went for a stroll, or most likely a jog (for they liked to stay active as they were aging in order to retain their balance and agility), following a familiar trail that led down a country lane until one of the mice — Harry, I think — sniffed an aroma coming from a side road and convinced his friends, Tom and Dick, to check out the aroma, which led them toward a farmyard where the farmer’s wife (let’s name her Cruella) was out cutting rhubarb from her garden with a butcher knife when she spied the three mice approaching and reacted as any frightened woman would by raising her knife and shouting, “Halt!” in a voice that should have warned the mice to back off, but it didn’t and they continued toward the aroma that they soon identified as cheese in the making, for the farmer was indeed making cheese out in the dairy barn, which impelled them onward despite the screeched warning of Cruella, paying her no attention until the woman, in a panic, brought down the raised knife onto the tail of the leading mouse, Harry, then followed by cutting off the tails of all three mice, who paid little attention to their plight, for the promise of a cheese snack was more than they could resist… (228 words)
How to Take Apart a Story
Can you take apart a familiar story and reduce it to an outline, possibly similar to what the author may have used to construct the story? Can you do it in one sentence? Give it a try and discover how easily you can produce the basic story of another writer (or possibly even your own). The exercise alone will help you focus on the action rather than the wordage. And action is what keeps a story moving.
(Refer to the story of “Three Blind Mice”, above.)
You see, it works both ways.
How to Use Parts of Speech,
Especially Conjunctions and Modifiers
Just the way you extend a single action in a sentence by adding “and” and continue with an additional action is the basic way to extend a sentence, and the usual way most speakers keep you tuned in: when you think they’re coming up for breath, they add “and…”.
Turn back to “Three Blind Mice” (above) and look at the various conjunctions used: that, but, which, or, when, until, then, for…. This gives you the freedom to describe a character or action, as well as provide background of purpose or intent.
As for the list of adjectives, adverbs, phrases and clauses, it is limitless… but essential. You can describe both appearance and action with modifiers (adjectives and adverbs), and vary the descriptions by using phrases and clauses to your heart’s content.
Although not exactly a “part of speech”, the use of punctuation is important in writing a long single sentence. The comma offers a pause; as does the ellipsis since it also implies “there is more”. The parenthesis offers an aside, as does the em-dash, the comments that provide a personal touch to writing. The semi-colon works sometimes with one-sentence stories, but be careful not to use it as a full stop (period).
How to Relax and Have Some Fun With Words
You may not have noticed it at first, but you soon will discover how this exercise causes you to focus to the extent that you may lose track of time, miss an appointment, forget your troubles (and the troubles of the world), and avoid worrying. When you return to earth, you’ll feel revived, renewed, completely relaxed and ready to return to your writing — rather like coming out of a hypnotic state.
Writing a one-sentence story is an excellent pastime while waiting in a dentist’s office, waiting for a phone call or when placed on “hold”, while sitting through a boring meeting, and riding the train to or from work. (The latter is helpful for doffing the stress of the office before returning home at the end of a baaad day.)
HERE’S THE DARE!
Forget what Teacher told you about what hell you’d be in if you wrote a “run-on sentence”. Just do it. Pick up a pen and pull out a pad of paper (back of a legal-size envelope will do, but you may have to take it apart and use both sides) and begin to write. Now keep going. How long can you make your sentence? If you’re more comfortable with a computer, open a new file, place your hands on the keyboard and don’t take them off until you feel the relaxing snap of the last tense muscle in your body.
*How much fun can you stand? Do it again!
*If your story passes the 200 count, send it for consideration for One-Sentence Stories, Book 2, to:
Muddy Puddle Press
P O Box 97124
Lakewood WA 98497
OR Email to: