Ramblings: An Introduction to Five Sentence Fiction

Writer’s Block
phrase of writer
  1. The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.


That should sound familiar to just about everyone. Everyone has experienced it in some form or another, and amazingly, it doesn’t just happen to writers. Public speakers fall into this problem, even if they have a script in front of them. Musicians run into it all the time. It is generalized into the inability to move forward on the task at hand due to your brain remembering that it is secretly holding you hostage.

Fortunately, there are some ways to get around this. Granted, these methods don’t work for everyone, or all the time, but they do help quite often. Most would simply tell you “Work on something else for a while, then come back to it.” While this is solid advice, I personally feel it is a bit heavy handed, as you are disembarking from the task completely during the process. You are engaged in something else for too long when adhering to that advice, and you will inevitably lose sight of the initial vision you had for the task.

 

For Writers, it is a bit easier, so that is what this is going to focus on. A project that Justin Diehl and myself started years ago in order to help us push past our Writer’s Block, which ended up being one of our favorite endeavors to work on.

 

Five Sentence Fiction

 

The concept is incredibly simple: Tell a complete scene in five sentences. Easy, right? Yeah… About that.

 

Typically, over the course of an hour, I can pump out anywhere between one and fifteen of these little stories. It all depends on how I’m feeling that day. Today I did three…over the course of the seven hours that I have been awake. That should tell you two things: 1. I’m writing this post from the past, and scheduling it to come out later. 2. I feel like shit today.

So, how does it work? Simple. It doesn’t.

You can’t do it. Just on principle, it is impossible. But then you sit down, you put your dunce cap on and realize that not only is it possible, but that I lied to you in giant bold letters.

 

I’m going to write a fresh one on the spot, right now. I’m going to time stamp each line, to give you an idea as to how this process works, and then I’ll put it all together so you can read it again.

[3:09PM AKST:] A sharp hiss signaled me awake as my ship tumbled through the thin atmosphere of the planet I had been tasked with collecting data on.

[3:11PM AKST:] Red tinted my vision as my eyes slowly hinged open, blood splattered across the cracked view-panel of my helmet.

[3:12PM AKST:] Johanse’s vitals on my HUD showed a vibrant, pulsing ‘Loss of Signal’ warning, telling me that the body draped over the co-pilot’s seat was, in fact, his.

[3:13PM AKST:] Reaching up, I forced the manual override on the canopy shutters, cringing as the loud cracks of small explosive charges sent the protective plates sailing off into the sky behind the ship, leaving me with a view of the jagged, crystalline mountainside we were hurtling towards.

[3:19PM AKST:]I watched on in horror, paralyzed by fear and shrapnel that rendered me immobile, only able to stare on in horror at the IMPACT WARNING message upon the navigation console.

 

See. Ten minutes. Easy. Only I rewrote each line about three times to make it feel right. Let’s look at it all together without the fancy time stamps:

A sharp hiss signaled me awake as my ship tumbled through 
the thin atmosphere of the planet I had been tasked with 
collecting data on. Red tinted my vision while my eyes slowly
hinged open, blood splattered across the cracked view-panel 
of my helmet. Johanse's, my son's, vitals on my HUD showed a 
vibrant, pulsing 'Loss of Signal' warning, telling me that 
the body draped over the co-pilot's seat was, in fact, his. 
Reaching up shakily, I forced the manual override on the 
canopy shutters, cringing as the loud cracks of small 
explosive charges sent the protective plates sailing off 
into the sky behind the ship, leaving me with a view of the 
jagged, crystalline mountainside the ship was hurtling 
towards. I watched on in horror, paralyzed by fear and 
shrapnel, only able to stare on in horror at the 
IMPACT WARNING message upon the navigation console.

So we more or less did it. We told a story in five sentences- if you can call them that.

I could actually elaborate more upon that. I could turn that entire scene into a larger piece of flash fiction if I desired, because during the process of writing it I had to think about what caused the situation in the first place. I had to consider the possibility of what happens after the fall. And I answered it all so that I could actually put the words down.

In ten minutes, I completely sidetracked myself from my original task of writing this post you’re reading now, and I have returned to it with renewed vigor. I still remember the message of the article, and I still know how I want to make it come around, as you’ve been reading.

This exercise is how I deal with my Writer’s Block.

It is also going to be a feature of the Cafe here. Once per week, I am going to write up and compile somewhere between two and five of these stories, and post them, with a little more insight into each story as a little bonus for checking back in to the site.

 

Hopefully, you can try the exercise yourself. Feel free to leave your own Five Sentence Fiction piece in the comments of this post, or any other Five Sentence Fiction post. I, for one, would love to give them a read.

 

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