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Writing 101: Size Matters

Today, tell us about the place you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

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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.

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

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  1. Farmhouse 1/3 mile away from roads on two sides, trees surrounding it, itself of 10 acres. Quiet except almost all the time with owls, crickets, cicadas, other insects. I mean, if you didn’t grow up like me, and you don’t question me about living as I have, then all I want to know is “What the beef?!”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you, professors, for shining a light on varying sentence lengths. I wish I had been taught that in school. Every sentence I wrote during my high school and college career was a clone on the first. I put myself to sleep writing. And everyone else to sleep who read what I wrote.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. We lived outside Chicago. A suburb known as the Village of Churches. I never remembered seeing many churches. Maybe because I was twelve I didn’t notice them then. I always felt safe there. Our house was orange brick, with a basement and a detached garage. Our driveway opened onto the street. It was very, very narrow. Every time my mother backed the car out of the garage and down the driveway, I was scared she would turn the steering wheel too much and run into the side of the house or the fence of our next door neighbors. I remember thinking, I will never be able to learn to back the car out of the driveway.

    I lived with my father, mother and Uncle Putte. My Dad was retired then. My Ma worked as a waitress as a place called Milan’s. Uncle Putte wasn’t my uncle, I’m not sure if he was even related. Everyone told me he was but now I’m not sure. Anyway, he lived with us from before I was born until he died. Which was years later. We had a minature schnauzer named Tammy (after the song/movie, Tammy). I named her when I was eight on the way home from the breeder. Never remembered why I picked that name. I had my own room. It was big! It had a double window in it and I had two twin beds attached to a king size headboard. I had a desk and lots of shelves because I had lots of books.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I lived in a bright, little yellow house for the first 17 years of my life with my mother and my sister. I would imagine 12 is in there somewhere…When my mother first rented the place, she told me the neighborhood was very blue collar and quite comfortable. Right around my 12 year mark, I recall changes in our neighbors. Low-rent apartments were built and suddenly, we had to start locking our doors. And it wasn’t a whole slew of people, just a few that made life what it was because they were dicks. After that, of course, the real estate principle of regression kicked in, and we were compelled to move later on. But 12 was still a relatively good time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always lived by the sea, I couldn’t see it from my window but I could see it if I walked for about ten minutes. I couldn’t always see it, but at night when everything was quiet I could always hear it. My two sisters would stay awake with me to ear it. I will always remember and cherish does moments. I think we were the only ones paying attention in our entire building, maybe in our entire neighborhood but we did and we were happier than the rest I’m sure of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The thing about responding to prompts like this is that it opens up thinking about one thing that is often connected to a multitude of other things in our writers’ brains. As you started writing about your home, you were reminded of your dog and shifted your focus there a bit. Perhaps your dog deserves her own piece.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Idyllic. My childhood was idyllic having grown up in, surprise, New Jersey (not what generally comes to mind when you say “idyllic”) in a neighborhood brand new and frequently bathed in muddy streets from the rain as we moved in before the streets were paved and while the saplings were still slight. Despite its newness, each new family bonded quickly. We all lived in our respective 1960s households and went about our daily lives. For us children that meant playing endless games of Kick the Can, bicycling, building forts in Racklin’s bean field and hunting shark’s teeth in our local creek. They were perfect times, or seemed to be, for our little family of four. Years later after moving from my beloved childhood home to Massachusetts, my parents got divorced and the strangeness of a new school world became quite difficult; still, for those years in New Jersey, life was pretty perfect and is always remembered fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I lived with my grandparents in a house that when the wind blew, you could smell the sweet scent of mangos coming from the big tree in the back yard. Instead of hearing wind chimes when the wind blew, we would hear salsa music playing softly from a distant neighbors’ house. My grandmother had a wonderful fruit and herb garden which had fresh mint and oregano to lemons, tomatoes and, of course, mangos. We lived in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, where my grandmother raised a few chickens for the fresh eggs and occasionally fresh roasted chicken. When I was twelve years old, family, food and music was common in our household.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I lived on a street, surrounded by other streets. Meandering pathways hidden by impetuous scowls and a general disinterest made up the fervor of my paranoia and imagination.
    I lived with my family, in a lonely oft forgotten stupor traveling day by day through the horrors of 6th grade, at Chegwin Elementary school.
    It was a quiet time, a thoughtless time, it was the beginning of the end. Here lies the end of my childhood age 12, Fond du Lac WI.

    Like

  9. http://brettodownes.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/9-point-of-view-wordpress/

    A bit late, been playing catch up due to my death by adverbs piece. I liked the challenge of the point of view one, from readings others creativity to my own personal challenge of trying to shoehorn a good, feasibile story into the base already given.

    I even managed to include a reference in that story to another one of my wordpress blogs. I am a sucker for nostalgia and love reading linking stories in different books.

    I am reasonable satisifed with the 3 points of view, although I am a little critical of the man’s section as i feel that is the weakest of the 3. i would appreciate some feedback on this blog, particularly the mans sections.

    thanks………..!

    Like

  10. Hello! Everyone,

    I’m living in India, Bangalore City. This is very developed and IT Zone place. All over world companies hire and occupied placed.
    They worked on Softwares development & Infrastructures Domain based on companies work place.

    Thanks
    Lapiwalla

    Like

  11. I lived in a house on stilts atop one of the highest hills in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. Standing on the front veranda you could see all the way to the ocean, despite being several kilometres away. Later, Dad would tell me that they built there because he was paranoid about tidal waves.
    When I was twelve was about the time my twin sister and I were at war with the neighbour’s kids over a tree between our houses. There was nothing particularly special about that tree. It wasn’t a big tree. It didn’t have any fruit. But they were adamant it was on their block but we knew it was on ours. There was nothing more frustrating than seeing them sitting in our tree looking smug. Rocks were thrown on occasion. Pretty soon that tree was cut down and it didn’t particularly bother anyone.

    I never really liked the combination of brick and cantaloupe-coloured panels that made up the outside of our house. There must have been some part of me that’s unconsciously liked the colour because I’ve just realised I use it on my blog now. I wouldn’t use the pickle-green that coloured our banisters though.

    There was seven of us were crammed into that little three bedroom house, but sometimes you just had to make-do. It’d make it impossible to have time to myself and it seemed like there was always a line to get into the bathroom. It’s good to have my space but every now and then I miss the mayhem.
    Just a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. When people have asked me over the years whether or not I’d ever seen someone get shot, they had reason. I grew up in the neighbourhood of Malvern, nestled in a seedy part Scarborough, Ontario. It was the sort of place kids didn’t wander after dark, with it’s eerily orange street lights and forbidding sounds. The sounds of the bus and people walking the public path behind my townhouse complex were almost comforting in their famliarity, for it was all I had known. It lay at a crossroads, with the school on one side and the mall on the other. No shortage of action. It wasn’t until I finally moved away that I knew the stark contrast between this area, and the sprawling rural one I live in now.

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  13. I lived in my grandmother’s house, a spacious place for my little self with a courtyard. It was built in around a 1980s and was one of the first houses built in the street. Raining is the best sight. You can see through the grills, water pouring down and flowing through a small hole. It had been fun. I played cricket with my dad in the courtyard, i didn’t had a brother so he was with me in every activity including kite flying on the roof and playing with ball in the courtyard.

    Like

  14. When I was twelve years old, I lived with my family in a small town in Viet Nam. My town is very peaceful . People are friendly and happy though economy wasn’t very good. We are always willing to help our neighbour. My family lived in a house, which had a lake in front of, and a beutiful garden. I planted many flowers and vegetables in that garden. My friend liked visting my house very much.

    Like

  15. I grew up in a small, quiet neighborhood in a big city in Northeast Mexico. Mom, Dad, and my 2 siblings…my family was always close. It seemed like everyone knew each other, and I had many friends. When I was 14, my family and I moved to Texas. I had a tough time at first, I had studied English for years, but I hated being away from ‘home’ and I missed my friends and my familiar surroundings.

    Thirteen years have now passed, and I still live in South Texas. For many years I wished my family had never moved us, but now…I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life is here, Texas is my home.

    Like