An update from our forty-first Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday, September 17th, plus some of the output published below
To kick off the his workshop of the fall term, Conner taught a class on beginnings. We read the beginnings and opening sentences of works such as The Handmaids Tale, Catcher in the Rye, The Metamorphosis, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, The Stranger, and Moby Dick. What we learned from these beginnings is that even though it is often impulse to begin a story with exposition, stories and novels are often much more exciting when they begin in medias res, or in the middle of the action. It was clear that these openings hooked the reader by not revealing everything—a technique known as withholding—and oftentimes by introducing the novel's "center," or major themes. These openings set the tone for the rest of the work. Based on these openings, Conner told us that we use our opening sentences/paragraphs to reveal something: the central object/desire/conflict in the first sentence.
The Challenge: First, write 6 opening sentences, each in a minute and a half, in which the first sentence must include an image, the second sentence must say something specific but utterly ridiculous, the third sentence must contradict itself, the fourth sentence must use the word "and" at least ten times, the fifth sentence must use the words "yes," "no," "and," and "maybe," and the sixth sentence should include a metaphor or use an example of synesthesia. Then, in twenty minutes, choose one of your opening sentences and expand it into an opening paragraph.
The Participants: Anushka, Emma, Allie, Arjun, Aditi, Savi, Josh, Alice, Madeline, Benedetta, Tate, Samantha, Russell, Sofia, Anna
From the Sky
Emma Hoff, 10
A shadow loomed over the hills, coming closer and attacking the delicate red roses that danced on the grass — all of a sudden everything shivered, and the sun fell in the sky, landing in a mixture of red, orange, and pink on the ground in front of a small house. Along with the sun landed the graceful cloud — eventually a curious human came out of the dwelling, and, with a tentative hand, touched the sun and was burned — they hurried back inside and never came out. The sun, knowing it was not wanted there, alighted upon yellow wings and flew away, for though the sun seemed like a clumsy and broken down car, it could fly quite beautifully if it wanted to — which it often did not. A little girl with blonde braids and a blue sweater waddled like a duck into the welcoming white cloud, and she was the sky which the cloud missed. She slept inside the warm place for a few days and then explored deeper caverns to take shelter from the rainy season. She found a forest and in that forest was a beautiful melody — and all the birds alighted upon her shoulders. A tree waved at her, and she was delighted. The tree took steps towards her, and she took steps towards it, but they were both rooted to the ground. But then she found another room which caught her interest, leaving the forest in dismay. She stepped onto a cold hard floor which spun and danced until she could do nothing but begin to sing, and other explorers entered and watched her notes slowly appear and fade on the wall. And then, all of a sudden she was outside — eventually snow began to fall, and she waited for the cloud to appear again to give her shelter — but it did not, for it had run away, and all she could do was spread her arms out, waiting for warmth.