Monday, April 11, 2022

Four Sentence Stories Workshop Notes and Extra Prompts

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:


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

The Drabble

Nail Polish Stories (hint fiction of 25 words) 

A Story in 100 Words 

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

On Medium:

Most of Jessa Forest’s newsletters:

Also, these can be used as a drama/improv exercise or as a group storytelling exercise with friends, family, or in classrooms.

Many thanks to Quarancon and all those who make it possible for hosting this workshop!!!

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:


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm sure you did great! Sounds like a good exercise. I'll watch it tonight at home.

Jemi Fraser said...

Very cool!
I haven't heard of 4 sentence stories before - great idea for getting to know your charcters and their motivations!
FYI - the video you posted is an author panel for QuaranCon (at least, that's what I see)

Jemi Fraser said...

I found the video on YouTube - great job! I've started some 4 sentence stories for the characters in my next book to let me get to know them better!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Alex - Thank you!

Jemi - Thanks for checking it out!

Natalie Aguirre said...

You have great tips on 4 sentence stories. I really liked your example too.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You did great with your session yesterday. I took notes.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

What an interesting concept!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - Thank you!

Diane - Thanks! That's good to hear.

Elizabeth - Thanks! I admit I "found" it in a writing class taught to me about, well, thirty years ago. So, it's an old, revised-to-me, writing concept.