Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: The Sixteenth Word

Shark4Grab a book off your shelf. Close your eyes and pick one–subject doesn’t matter. Open to a page and find the sixteenth word. That word will be your first sentence. Just that one word. Write for five minutes. Go.

Mine (From The Best American Short Stories 2012) page 290:

Basket. That’s what they called me. Short for basket-case, I guess, but I never asked. It was a perplexing nickname, to be sure, and I wasn’t always certain they were talking about me. But then I was in the lunch line and someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Your turn, Basket,” so yeah. I was Basket.

Perhaps I earned the name at camp, where I was pretty good at weaving. I was also good at throwing tantrums because they wouldn’t let me phone home. Some sort of restriction–one phone call a day, and fewer for me because I was abusing the privilege. And no cell reception. Freaking woods. Freaking parents who sent me to the woods. Who would never know that I threw my pudding cup at the camp counselor’s head because she told me I was acting like a baby. I don’t know how I got a pudding cup in the first place. I must have carried it with me from lunch.

But not everyone saw that. Very few people did. So there’s still the off chance that they knew I was good with macrame and all that crap they made us do when it was raining or if we were too afraid of sharks to swim in the lake. And yes, I know there are no sharks in lakes but tell my brain that when I close my eyes and go under the dark water. Tell my brain to forget the movie JAWS and all the scenes I concocted in my mind when my brother told me there were creatures way worse than the Great White and they were everywhere and it would take just one bite and I’d be gone.


Post yours in the comments! Let’s inspire each other.



2 thoughts on “Writing Exercise: The Sixteenth Word”

  1. From Roget’s Thesaurus of the English Language, 1936 edition (forgive me; it turned dark quickly):

    Firm. It shouldn’t be like that. A body out in the woods along the riverbank shouldn’t be firm after four weeks. None of the others had been this way.

    What, then? Some kind of difference in bacteria growth? The weather? Or was it what she’d been searching for the past three years?

    Since moving to Walkerton that bleary cold December she’d amassed a handsome number of bodies, each let to rest beside the drowsy water for a month or two—however long it took for them to start crumbling—and then dragged into the low-ceilinged cave just below the ridge that lined the river, where they now lay among the small rocks and damp dirt, turning into nothing after turning into each other.

    Selene opened her backpack and pulled out the leather pouch, carefully untied the lacing, and splayed it open on the ground next to what had once been called Trevor.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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