2020 Writing Mission: Stretch Sentences into Short Stories

40 Sentences

I’ve been listening to the Writership podcast and poking around the Captain’s Blog and came across an article related to using short stories to improve writing.

Leslie Watts, who runs the site, called it a writing mission. I’m in.

The basic idea, slightly modified: Start with 40 sentences, then pick a subset to stretch into paragraphs. Pick a smaller number of your favorite paragraphs to expand into pages. Keep going and you end with a handful or more short stories.

In her explanation of the mission, Leslie writes, “James Scott Bell says, ‘A great short story is about the fallout from one, shattering moment.’ He defines this shattering event as one that cannot be reversed and that changes the character’s life or worldview forever.”

Sounds like a worthwhile exercise. Sounds fun too. See the article on Writership for more details, but this is the general idea of what I will be doing for the remainder of March.

Day 1 (March 24) 40 sentences

1. I stopped believing in things I can’t see and science can’t prove, but I held on to St. Anthony, and for whatever reason, he stood by me.

2. My sister and I are experts at finding lost things.

3. My name is Twenty, which is odd, kind of funky, but I’m only thirteen and I’m neither of those things.

4. The whole drama started in sixth grade, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take forty two years to get to the final act.

5. Wanda and Billy started off as friends who loved to draw owls.

6. My name is Fizz.

7. I climbed to the top of the PPL building to face my fears, but it didn’t go the way I planned.

8. The day before I turned 13, Charles chopped off his pinky.

9.I’m a little like a sphynx, the friendly, smart hairless cat, not the mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.

10. The day I died the flowers on the mophead hydrangea in our backyard finally returned.

11. I used to think there were two kinds of people in the world, the sunsets and the sunrises, but Prooba showed me the world’s more complicated than that.

12. Blu-Ray could make me smile even on my most ornery days.

13. It would have been the perfect summer if Peter hadn’t stepped on that spike in the middle of smurf olympics.

14. I’m odd, and though being yourself works for some quirky, misfits, I have a creased photo and a tiny key that say that path won’t work for me.

15. Jambalaya is supposed to be a supper, but Mama thrust that name on my big brother, which I swear was the start of all my troubles.

16. On the day I turned 75, battered but still ticking, long-retired from a job I barely bothered to recall, standing on my porch avoiding Tula and our grandkid-sitting duties, a thought tickled behind my ears.

17.Standing on my son’s porch on my 75th birthday, hiding from Tula and the grandkids, a thought tickled behind my left ear.

18.Karen Devine recalled a moment thirty years ago, sitting at a table in home-ec between Beth and Brian and across from Teak, and something in her chest cracked just like ice before a skater falls through.

19.The sunlight gave no warmth, though it shone as bright as ever.
It was rush hour on a Monday, but the cars had gone, and so had the people, all the way from Pickering street as far up Lake as the young woman could see. 

20.Birds didn’t sing, or chirp or tweet in Clovis, but they made a sound, and when you heard it, you either lifted your face to the Stars while your heart filled with love, or you covered your ears and cried.

21.Apple trees used to grow fat and line up limb to limb across all of Penny orchard’s 30 acres until the night  Bo left Lehigh.

22.Mother’s Day came like it always did, but this time April didn’t have lunch at the Bethlehem hotel. 

23.Trash cans blew into the middle of the street and rolled around the yards and sidewalks like leaves swirled by an angry wind.

24.The lilacs that grew between us and the Taylors seemed to bloom overnight, scenting the morning with the sweet hope of spring.

25.The first green shoots poked from the dirt in the front yard.
Devin and Fran and the cottage in the Poconos would have survived, but the trees had been watching from the beginnings.

26. Mourning doves mate for life.

27. On my first day of second grade everyone in Ms. Link’s class had to say what animal they were most like and I, a fidgety child with a habit of storing treasures in my pockets, went with kangaroo.

28. Basements have a bad reputation.

29. One windless, still night, when sleep wouldn’t stick, I went for a walk.

30. I’d have an elephant for a pet if they were smaller.

31. Sherbet gets angry when I say this, since genetically modifying animals and plants is the most evil thing you could do in her book, but I would love it if someone could engineer a tiny elephant.

32. I’d never admit this to Sherbet, but in my Dad’s shed, I’m engineering a tiny elephant.

33. Last Christmas I nearly drowned in a puddle in Merchants Square.

34. It took Laura Zhang a week to try to drown me in the lake in the center of the Merchants Square model train village.

35. Rain against the roof used to help me fall asleep, until the night Pete escaped.

36. On summer nights, when the leaves grew thick on the tree outside my window, and the wind whipped, I’d hear a tap on my window and most of my brain knew what it was and ignored it, but a tiny rebellious faction of cells imagined something different.

37. Vanilla and warm sugar filling my house shouldn’t make me so irritable.

38. If Rebecca could have tasted truth the way she detected the spices in her food, Ametrine would still be greeting her at the Happy Hippo book store with a cheery, “What’s up Reba?”

39. My name is Aventurine Willis.

40. My ears perked at the sound of the text message jingle.