Wordplay and Two Sentence Stories

by ryankl

I love the power of two sentence stories. So easy to be lame, so perfect when you nail them. It’s all about control and power.

I use these 2ss in class because they’re a great way to quickly assess who has mastery of word choices, punctuation, sentence structure, and figurative language for effect. They’re also fantastic mental exercises for me on the sly.

Today in class, I wrote:

There was a crack splintering across her faceplate. The cold kiss of space crept into her suit.

It’s not perfect but I wanted to try something specific.

I unpacked the two sentences with the kids and then asked if they liked it or not. Most did; they dug the mysterious tone, the elements of tension present, and the fact it was creepy and sounded like someone was about to die. Many admitted they didn’t quite get it but then still dug the feel of it.

I then showed them something really cool. I played with titles for it. Check this:

LOST IN SPACE

There was a crack splintering across her faceplate. The cold kiss of space crept into her suit.

Everyone quickly connected that this was literally about a spacewoman who had probably befallen some accident and the vacuum of space was about to kill her. Now they knew to enjoy the horrors for real that were merely implied before.

Then I changed the title up and it took a while but one student finally understood what a difference it all made. Check it:

DEPRESSION

There was a crack splintering across her faceplate. The cold kiss of space crept into her suit.

At first, no one could get it, their attempts at unravelling this narrative went wildly off base. Then one student put up their hand and said, “It’s about someone finally breaking their smile and having their sadness fill them.”

Spot. On.

Because the title just took the literal and turned it into a brutal metaphor. Because that’s the power of words and how they connect to form narratives for us. Though I wish I’d chosen MELANCHOLIA for the title now.

Oh, and my students are 10 years old. How ace is that?

In summation: take the time to play with words, see how small tweaks inform new meaning, see how shuffling can bring out something better. See how two sentences, when done right, can make this grand thing out of something small, and can hint at way more than it presents and get the audience to feel something and imagine more, as well as desperately wanting it.

As writers, wordplay is our control. It’s our outlet, it’s our jam, and it’s something that can spark an event in your brain where a new world grows. You never know.

Play/write/read/enjoy/repeat – go get a notepad, fill it with a 2ss a day. Be a better human after just one month. Believe.

Advertisements