Word.a.Day Writing Exercise #3

I’d read today that one thing to consider is the length of sentences.  One article I read today suggested that “in this day and age, people just aren’t up for long sentences like they used to be. Most readers want quick and easy information packed into short powerful sentences.”  I’m a big fan of long, drawn-out sentences in order to give the reader a sense of the magnitude of the character’s thought.  However, I’ve also been accused of wordiness.  And rightly so.  As a result of this and today’s Word.a.Day word, my challenge was to keep sentences at 16 words or fewer (it was 10, but that’s just crazy-talk and doesn’t match the word of the day as nicely either).  Today’s word is:


PRONUNCIATION: (SEM-ee-kway-vuhr)

MEANING: noun: In music, a note having the time value of one-sixteenth of a whole note.


Applause.  “Will number 18, Jack Kenley, please make your way to the front?”  Applause.

Aunt Bette stood up from the pew in the 3rd row.  She grasped Jack’s hand in hers, tugging him a little from his seat. Together, they walked unevenly towards the altar—Jack shaking, Aunt Bette gleaming.  He was an unwilling dog being lead on a leash down an unwanted path.

On the altar, Aunt Bette sat to the side, where teachers watched on.  Jack looked at the piano in front of him.  Bigger and newer than his piano at home where he’d practice.  More isolated too.  He sat.  Heart racing.  People staring.  One coughing.  Echo echoing. Alone.

The treble clefs and semiquavers for Music Box Dancer glared at him intensely.  Next, they swirled on the sheet music—a dizzying hurricane of notes.  Jack couldn’t focus.  He gulped.  He thought he might throw up.  How many other kids had vomited in this church, he wondered.  Aunt Bette would be mortified.  The thought of it made the hurricane die down.  He smiled and began playing.

At each bar ending, Jack knew he’d missed the timing.  It was an intricate piece for a 9-year-old; Aunt Bette chose it for its difficulty.   He heard her foot tapping at practice.  “The timing makes it a happy piece.  The complexity makes it a winner.”  It would be her win really, he thought.

He felt Aunt Bette’s brows furrowing, her temperature rising, the misplaced embarrassment gathering in her face.  His back tensed from the glare she surely was giving him.  With each bar that passed, the timing became more off.  The notes became more minor in tone.  The stress fell on the wrong sylLAble.  MuSICboxdancER:  now popping up without an arm, spinning on a broken axis.

Jack played what we he thought must be the last note.  It echoed throughout the crevices of the church, fighting with the previous note for audible attention.  It was a twisted siren call, unfading, uncomfortably long.

He stared at the sheets in front of him.  Nothing.  Soundlessness.  Did he actually play it?  Were all the other kids and parents still behind him?  Was Aunt Bette still sitting in the teacher’s spot?  He felt dizzy.

Clap.  Another clap.  A few more claps.  Staggered, the claps weren’t a group, but many individual claps out of unison.  A firm hand gripped his right shoulder.  His eyes followed the hand up the arm, loose skin hanging from tense tendons.  Aunt Bette scowled down at him, then shot a pursed smile to the MC and the clappers.

Oh no, Jack thought.  He welcomed the coming evening at home with the same dread he’d felt just five minutes before, but doubled.  His heartbeat sped.  His head whorled.   He threw up.  Aunt Bette screamed.  The crowd gasped.  And Jack smiled.


About seburnt

I own 4C and teach at University of Toronto. View all posts by seburnt

5 responses to “Word.a.Day Writing Exercise #3

  • Christi Craig

    Nice piece. I like how you incorporated 16 words or less in each sentence.

    My favorite lines:
    He felt Aunt Bette’s brows furrowing, her temperature rising, the misplaced embarrassment gathering in her face.

    It was a twisted siren call, unfading, uncomfortably long.

    Aunt Bette scowled down at him, then shot a pursed smile to the MC and the clappers. [this one gives me a perfect sense of Aunt Bette’s character]

    I also love the succession of short sentences at the end. They add speed and tension to the ending.

    • kfbunny

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Christi! It was a bit of a challenge with the word count per sentence. You’d think 16 would be ample, but I kept finding myself having to omit words and rewrite sentences. Oh how I am fond of rambling on!

  • e6n1

    It’s always amazing what single word writing prompts can inspire. Sometimes we write better within limits


    • kfbunny

      Yes, I agree. It’s definitely been a useful writing exercise for me if for nothing else to but to get my juices flowing and the rust off my pen.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Mom

    Josh Ty – I didn’t even know you had written this story. It kept me spellbound right to the end. My favourite piece of music too as you know. How many times did you play this for me – I will always want you to play it again and again. It brings back great memories for me. Thanks for both the story and the music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: