Our Writing & Publishing Lab course, lead by Luis Jaramillo and John Reed at The New School, began with one simple exercise:
“Write a story in five snapshots.”
To do this, we followed what’s called the “Five-part story structure”:
(A) First you write Action.
(B) Second you write Background.
(D) Third you Develop the story.
(C) Fourth you Complicate it. (Writer Alice Adams call this part the “Climax.”)
(E) And finally you End.
Two weeks after receiving the prompt, eleven of us writers presented our story.
Here are the five snapshots I selected–drawings by the late Mucha, whom most recognize not by his name, but by his art:
Below is my text, inspired by Mucha’s art:
A child is born
His mother, the shapely young supple Spring,
Youngest of four sisters, dreams for her boy:
“If he survives the year, she says,
“He will bring home joy.”
An aunt lounges
She is Summer, with keen eyes on her sister
But now the aunt relaxes, lays at ease and enjoys her wine
When the boy grows up, she will welcome him
She will let him in.
Autumn promises to feed the child
She is rich and can provide for everyone
Voluptuous year after year
Yet her bounty breeds fear
Beware: between fresh fall grapes she hides it.
At last the eldest, Winter, kneels before the boy
Donned in a hooded cloak shes worn for a spell
She whispers, “At last,
“I will lull and annul your sin born in your ear.”
And through the night she nursed him to that tune.
“Ahh,” said younger brother
Always dazzled by Muse, his older sister
Who enchanted all her siblines
“I too pray this winter be done,
“Bring on the Spring, I say, now let’s have some fun!”
The piece is intended to be read out loud, and presented alongside the photos: hence the alliteration, repetition, and rhyme. The careful reader will have noted the “five line” structure within the “five snapshot” structure. I got really into this idea of a story in five parts–especially Action, especially End. My aim with this project was to practice writing five lines of lyric, each containing the ABDCE arch, while narrating the larger “Story in Five Snapshots” arch: ABDCE/ABDCE/ABDCE/ABDCE/ABDCE.
Since presenting my project to the class, and at the KGB monthly reading series, I’ve continued to play around with this “five-part structure.” I sometimes spend my hour long train rides to work jotting them down. Here are a few:
1. “Do not lean against the doors.” A boy fell off once. He was writing a story. He looked just like you. So, yeah, watch out, or you’ll fall too.
2. Today we’re going to learn how to write a story in five sentences. Have you ever shared an experience, yet lost your audience? What you can do to help your listeners is follow the ABDCE rule. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you have it down. Once it becomes habit, you’ll captivate any audience always.
3. “Damn,” Homer said. He had been in tears. People didn’t read him anymore. They only pretended. So he hid at Calypso’s.
4. Only once a month do my eyes cross with others willing to hold our gaze. Most of the time they look away. Sometimes I look away. But once a month I get that pleasure beyond measure to share a moment with a complete stranger. Feeling not as two, we do, yet feeling as One.
Practicing this ABDCE structure, in my opinion, reminds me of practicing the pentatonic A-Minor scale, in that once you have it down, space is made in your mind to improvise. Here is one example: (BAAA/C/DDD/E)
5. The train is at the station. A woman applies black lipstick. Three men sit in priority seating. And a group of children play tag and ask for money…
Suddenly, the car doors close and the train jolts.
The woman smears her face. The three men knock their heads. And the group of children fly through an open window.
The train reaches the next station.
Can you write a story in five sentences? I love would to read it. Please leave yours in the comments section below.