Four Sentence Stories Workshop Notes

Four-Sentence Stories

 If you viewed my Four-Sentence Stories Workshop with QuaranCon 2022, you might have seen me get a bit nervous a few times, but I kept going and taught the class mostly as I meant to. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH-v3YyGzM0

Either way, I thought I could reiterate some of the points of the class briefly here and add in a few extra writing prompts if you are interested.

What are 4-Sentence Stories?

  • Exactly what they say they are: stories in four sentences. 
  • Part poetic brevity, part fiction, these stories force focused word choices.
  • Always include a character, a problem, and an ending/hint of resolution
  • Yes, this can be done.
  • Yes, they can be fun to write.

Why write 4-Sentence Stories?

  • Explore characters
  • Explore ideas
  • Fill the creative well
  • Play with words
  • Focus on sensory words, active verbs, or another area you want to work on. 

Example of a 4-Sentence Story:

This is one of mine, but there are many more to be found in Jessa Forest’s newsletters and at online markets which I will link at the end of this post.

Solution by Tyrean Martinson

Gilly touched the railing of her childhood home.

Painful memories lodged like splinters under her skin.

She could change that.

The match caught easily on the gasoline-soaked wood.

What happens if you don’t follow the 4-Sentence Format EXACTLY?

If you have too few sentences, consider it a win. 

Consider rounding it out, or leave it as, if you are satisfied.

If you have one or two too many, consider it a win. 

You wrote. You finished a super short story. You conquered the blank page. 

OR you can play around with the words or grammar and try to tighten it to four sentences. 

The point is: enjoy the writing. Have fun with it. Overcome the blank page and play with words!

Writing Prompts to Use:

  • Put your character in a white room and show what they do there.
  • Put your character at the edge of a cliff, top of a castle tower, underwater, trapped in a spacesuit that’s running out of oxygen and show what they do there. 
  • Take away the sense of sight and make your character rely on sound, smell, taste, or touch for the duration of a four-sentence story. (This forces a focus on writing other sensory description.)
  • Take a character you already know and put them in a weird or impossible situation. Dump Athena into a modern fast-food chain and see what she does.
  • Something came over the horizon. 

Questions to ask yourself after writing the story:

  • What did I learn about this character?
  • What did I learn about this character’s dilemma?
  • What did I learn about the ending/hint of resolution in this story.

What can I do with a four-sentence story?

  • Query them. There are markets for four-sentence stories, markets for hint fiction, and markets for micro-fiction. 
  • It is true that most of these markets are non-paying markets, but you can build up your writing resume and your ability to query by starting with these.
  • Use them in a newsletter as a free giveaway.
  • Use them at an author table as a free giveaway. 
  • Collect them and print them in a collection.  

Markets for Four-Sentence Stories and Super Short Fiction:

Four Sentence Stories https://www.foursentencestories.com/

The Drabble http://thedrabble.com/

Nail Polish Stories (hint fiction of 25 words)

https://nailpolishstories.wordpress.com/

A Story in 100 Words http://entropy2.com/blogs/100words/ 

Make sure to read all of their submission guidelines first!

And please note, these editors are volunteering their time and they are all decent people. They don’t accept every story, but they will give yours good consideration.

More Uses and Examples

Four-Sentence Stories can be used by friends, families, and in classrooms for creative storytelling games out loud, for writing games on paper, or even as acting improv games. Try them, you just might like them. 🙂

On Medium:

Most of Jessa Forest’s newsletters: https://jessaforest.com/

Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry by me.

Many thanks to Quarancon for hosting my workshop!!! The wonderful creatives who are in charge of the con are awesome writers and artists!

What’s Next for this Workshop:

I’ll be teaching a Four-Sentence Stories Workshop again in May with Creative Colloquy! I’ll be sure to freshen up the material, use different examples and prompts, so if you did attend this one, there will be more to explore! Please join me there by going to here to sign up: https://www.creativecolloquy.com/all-events/four-sentence-exercises-to-boost-creativity-and-sensory-description

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