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Monday, September 17, 2012

"Five Sentence Fiction"

This is how the creator of the Five Sentence Fiction idea, Lillie McFerrin, describes the idea:

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Lillie McFerrin

What it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.

This week: AWKWARD

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So, I thought I'd give it a go. I took a cue from one of my own blog stories and constructed it based very loosely on a theme from there.

Here's my first (and maybe my last!) try at Five Sentence Fiction.

I sat beside her on the park bench, she in a neat grey dress, her laced shoes barely touching the grass. Age could not rob her face of its beauty, all the more charming because of its puzzling lack of inhibition.

Her eyes sparkled as she took from her handbag a creased black and white photograph of a youth in full military regalia.

"We're getting married on Saturday before he leaves, but he's a stranger here," she said, scanning my face intently.

"Will you be his Best Man?"


  1. Very clever you are Denis. However you may have been too clever because I was ready for the next five! Great challenge. Thinking cap on

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you. Even though I can spend only a short time on it, it does focus the mind admirably!

  3. What a great creative idea. btw, a review of Christopher Hitchens' recently published book of essays "Mortality":

    Julie M xx

    1. Thanks, Julie. I like the sentiment behind one sentence in particular:

      'The absorbing fact about being mortally sick is that you spend a good deal of time preparing yourself to die with some modicum of stoicism (and provision for loved ones), while being simultaneously and highly interested in the business of survival.'

      So true.


  4. Oh, so poignant...and so sad. Beautiful piece, don't let it be your last!

    1. Thanks Lisa - that's kind of you, and encouraging.

  5. May I suggest you delete the paragraph return after the 2nd last sentence. I had to read it twice to work out who was speaking. I know this screws up the 5 sentence story, but that's poetry for you. Uncompromising.

    It is a beautiful little story. Very sad and sometimes very true, although I think a more possible situation in the past than now.

    1. Thanks, Joan. I'd call it poetry only in the most general sense of the word. It's prose.

      I thought very carefully about structure, but prefer it as it is. I'd be interested to know if anyone else had too much trouble working out who was speaking at the end.

      I wanted a distinct pause there, and the demands of the exercise meant making many compromises one wouldn't when writing a novel.

      This was mine. You'd solve it in your own way.

      You have a go and submit it, but five sentences only! Be uncompromising in any other way you like.

  6. Denis I think that is beautiful, and I also hope it is not your last. And perhaps for the first time I will politely disagree with Joan; it is perfect as is, with so much left unsaid - yet not. Thank you.


    1. I do understand Joan's point perfectly, and now I can think of a way that would solve the problem entirely and still allow me my dramatic pause. But it's a bit like my definition of repartee – "the brilliant comeback you think of 24 hours later"!

  7. I figured you'd rise to the challenge. Only 5 lines. It must be perfect. I'm looking forward to your solution.

    I heard this morning that Bryce Courtnay is giving his last 5 day writers' workshop as his stomach cancer is due to silence him within 3 months. I'll bet he'll be completely uncompromising.

    I apologise if I appeared offensive in my comments. Certainly not intended. I know how exacting you are Denis, and how brilliant your non-academic writing has become.

    (Previously deleted because of a compromising typo)

    1. No apology necessary, Joan. If one puts something out into the public arena and can't take suggestions, then one better pull one's head in!

      I was taken very much by Bryce Courtenay's earliest novels – The Power Of One and Tandia – and read a couple more, but none grabbed me like the ones set in South Africa. I admit that I haven't read most of the later ones, so I am a bad judge of his more recent writing. No doubt he would be uncompromising.

      If he did a 5-minute fiction then he's have to be on handicap to make it fair, and have two minutes to complete his. :)

  8. I really like your take on awkward. Truly creative and inspired. I'm so glad you joined in on Five Sentence Fiction this week, and I'd love to see more of your writing on future prompts :)

    1. Thanks, Lillie. For what it's worth, because I'm a cheeky old chap and don't care, I took the liberty of listing my top ten. They are in alphabetical order only, not in terms of appeal. [Safer that way! :)]

      Donna B. McNicol
      Jo-Anne Teal
      Josie Two Shoes
      People Don't Eat Enough Fudge
      Phillip R. Hall
      RK Smith
      Wayne Assiratti

      There are eleven because the ones in tenth spot tied, but I'm not saying who.

      Rating's a challenge because content and style both have to be considered. But it was much more fun than assessing first-year university essays!

      For anyone else with the time and stamina, the entire list is here:

      I know it's not a competition but thought you may be interested.


  9. I see her as deep in dementia, living in an imagined past.

    Very sad, touching, and a bit enigmatic.

    Nicely done.


    1. Or a fractured past. Not quite Miss Haversham!

      Thank you.

  10. Yes, the line about age not robbing her of beauty I took quite differently on first reading, but I see what JzB means. At first I thought it one of those attitudes we used to have about women in that they were judged according to how they kept their beauty as they aged. So the speaker was evaluating her according to this criteria, i.e. that she looked like the type who would age well. (Well, at least I hope that will become an old fashioned way of judging women.)

    But I see now that she is old in the story and living in a past in which she probably lost her fiancee or newly married husband in the war. I'm currently reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, which is about WWI, and am myself living in the wartime past so hence I missed the context of your little story, Denis, thinking you were writing a tiny story about an event during WWII.

    You are a clever boy.

    1. I think you've the idea now what I was trying to represent. And yes, your first reading was quite at odds with my intention!

      The eye of the beholder, hey?

    2. They say there are at least 4 main characters in any story, and the reader is one of them.

      My first reading still works, but it's not nearly as interesting as your intention. I thought the story teller was a WWII soldier attempting to chat up this bird on a park bench, and I took it from there. His comments about her face reminded me of Margaret Atwood's piece on "good bones". Good bone structure is what enables one to age well, but Atwood of course has to ask, "just what are bad bones?"

      A bit like checking to see if she had good teeth. You don't want to buy her if she's going to cost you money down the road.

      See what I mean about the 4th character in this one: the man, the woman, the serviceman, and me.

    3. Yes, I definitely see what you mean about the 4th character, and if I were a budding writer – which I'm not – this is a great example to show how important No 4 always is. Thanks, Joan.


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