One Sentence Stories

You never know what’s going to happen when you hang out with a bunch of crazy writers.

I’m chilling on Twitter last Friday evening while I’m beta-reading a SF story by Anatoly Belilovsky. The story is excellent, but at one point has a run-on sentence that is, literally, 90 words long (I checked in MS Word). So I send the following Tweet to Anatoly:

@loldoc Dude there is a 90-word sentence in your story. I had to go find a snack in the middle so that I could get through it! 🙂

And then I write in the comment field of his document: “This is an enormous run on were-sentence that makes me want to go out and find stakes, and garlic, and whatever else kills were-run-on sentences. ” Followed by a few suggestions about breaking this sentence into three. Anatoly likes my were-sentence comment and Tweets it, and then a discussion begins about long sentences with more and more of our writerly friends chiming in.

I point out that a famous Russian author Victor Pelevin wrote a one-sentence short story that went on for several pages. Anatoly replies that Gogol is known for some page-long sentences, and Jake Kerr chimes in that so is Henry James.

And then this happens:

Ken Liu@kyliu99

@AShvartsman @jakedfw @loldoc This would seem to be a good challenge to take up. Shall we all try to write a one-sentence story?

Challenge accepted, Mr. Liu, challenge accepted.

Before we know it, half a dozen authors want in on this. I hesitate about posting our perfectly good (if short) stories publicly on our blogs, and Matthew Bennardo offers to pay $5 to see each story. He is forced to hastily withdraw this offer as the number of participants snowballs. By the end of the evening we have a Twitter hashtag #1ss (One Sentence Story) and an impressive array of authors (all the way from people who write award-nominated stories like Ken and Jake and to people who read award-nominated stories like me) who all agree to write the longest, most interesting one sentence story they can, no later than Wednesday night.

The following is my one sentence story:

ONE THOUSAND AND FIRST

…this will be the last story I ever tell you, my sultan, and so I humbly beseech you to listen and to delight in it, and to keep your promise of allowing me to finish this very last sentence, uninterrupted, even as the sun is already rising from beyond the Eastern dunes and the executioner sharpens his scimitar; I have told you a thousand stories — tales of flying carpets and bottled jinn, bold sailors and treacherous viziers, magic and wonder and all manner of things beyond the mundane – but this last story is about an ordinary young woman, a woman who caught the eye of her sultan and who managed to survive their wedding night, and a thousand nights afterward, using no weapon and no magic but her imagination alone; the sultan was mesmerized by her wondrous fables at first, always eager for  another, but as the years went by she found it more and more difficult to keep his attention until, finally, he had had enough and wanted to hear no more stories – but being a kind and generous ruler he graciously consented to allow the girl to finish speaking before the guards would take her away (everyone knows that the sultan’s word is his bond) and the poor girl swallowed her tears, drew in a big breath and began her tale thus:

this will be the last story I ever tell you, my sultan, and so I humbly beseech you…

The above story is 243 words, which is a tiny sliver compared to some of the epic sentences composed by others. However, *my* story is an a loop. Which means it is, in fact, infinite words long. That totally means I win, right? Right?

You can read some of the other entries and decide for yourself. Damien Walters Grintalis and Ken Liu both opted to keep their entries off the Internets because they’re awesome writers who can sell their grocery lists to magazines. And if they can sell their grocery lists then surely they can also sell their one sentence stories. Some of the other authors opted to post theirs publicly and I’m going to link all the ones I know about below (and will update the links as more stories are posted, so watch this space!):

“The Bloodline Is Only as Strong as Its Last Generation” by Jake Kerr

“A Vos Souhaits” by M. Bennardo

“Good Thing I Did Not Tell Them About the Dirty Knife” by Anatoly Belilovsky (Anatoly wrote several entries, check his blog!)

“Inevitable” by Carrie Cuinn

Untitled by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

“Mr. Fix-It” by Don Pizarro

“The Ghost and the Machine” by Suzanne Palmer

“Tommy Hopper and The Future” by Spencer Ellsworth

“And Yes” by S. R. Mastrantone

“Glork” By Amanda C. Davis

“Object of My Affection” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

“Dear Kyle” by Brenda Stokes Barron

“Great-Uncle’s Visit” by Michael Haynes

If you wish to play along, post a link to your one-sentence story in the comments or follow us on Twitter under the hashtag #1ss.

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6 Responses to One Sentence Stories

  1. […] “One Thousand and First” by Alex Shvartsman (243 words… or is it?) […]

  2. […] “One Thousand and First” by Alex Shvartsman (243 words… or is it?) […]

  3. D.M. Bonanno says:

    What an awesome idea. I love it!

  4. Masonian says:

    Infinite sentence for the win. 🙂 Nicely played, good sir, nicely played.

  5. […] #1ss on Twitter to keep tabs on the fun. And be sure to check out all the other entries listed on Alex’s blog. Here’s my entry. It’s about 317 words: Dear […]

  6. Sealey says:

    What a fun challenge, Alex! I should really be paying more attention. I missed this deadline. Won’t let it happen again, though.

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