A Writing Prompt From Nathan Poole

Each Friday we post one new writing prompt created by a Sarabande author. Prompts like this one are included in our online Reader's Guides along with discussion questions and suggested reading to accompany each title. So if you can't wait a week for the next prompt, visit our Reader's Guide page to find them all in one place!

Today's prompt comes from Nathan Poole, whose debut collection of short stories, Father Brother Keeper, published in February 2015.

 

Exercise: And Then I Found... Five Human Teeth

In middle school it was a common thing to say “...and then I found five dollars!” anytime you felt the story you were telling had unraveled beneath you. This solution seemed ingenious to middle-school me, a failsafe to deploy when you lose that precious thread, something that happened to me all the time. 

A few years ago I was reading Aristotle’s Poetics and remembered this strange phenomenon. I realized our old "Five Dollars" failsafe was just a version of what Aristotle called adding “magnitude,” which he defined as a “change of fortune.”

So the prompt: Experiment with the idea of magnitude. Write the first three sentences of the worst story you can possibly imagine: the driest, most creeping, tedious story. Then, in the fourth sentence, try to save it by adding sudden magnitude, changing a character’s fortune. Start your fourth sentence with these four words: “And then I found...”

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