Writing 101: (Day 11) Size Matters (In Sentences)

Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences)
Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
But first, consider this passage:
The man rode hard through the woods. The black horse’s effort lay in lather. The sun beat down from high overhead. Dark birds circled, drifted, and then returned. The land baked, and dust hung suspended.
Is this not the most boring paragraph you’ve read in a long time — perhaps ever? We’ve got portent, a racing rider, and a forbidding landscape. Together, these should offer excitement and intrigue, but the words lay on the page, limp and dead. Why? Sentence length. Each sentence contains exactly seven words. The repetitive, seven-word cadence lulls you to sleep instead of piquing your interest.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.

– Gary Provost, 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing
Mixing up the lengths of your sentences creates variety for the reader and makes for much more interesting reading.
Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

15 min free writing:


You’re a kid experiencing the endless summer. You feel something is going to change forever, but you’re twelve, innocent of ‘the new’, as it impatiently waits in the wings.

Remember this calm before the storm,  teenage hormones will soon kick: puzzlement, excitement, fears and thrills; but before then, remember now.

This is the time you’re making homemade fudge and coconut ice with your sister. Sometimes it all turns out perfect, other times it’s brittle or a coconut mess.

Your cousin is more like your brother, has been all your life. You and he have experienced everything together. Both unaware, this time next summer you’ll be like strangers. You’ll stare at the denim clad rocker: all blackheads and Heavy Metal. And you? Well, you’re more disco, glitter and pop!

But for now, you’re laughing together so hard as you both yell at his sister to “Run”, causing that big dog to take chase. Round and round the park they run, Benny Hill style.

The lad up the road is your best mate: playing, rowing, crying, laughing, exploring, sharing, rivalry and friendship.

You’re twelve years old and although you don’t know it, this is the most magical year of your life…so far.

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