Last week, my writing was centered around a self-imposed story challenge.
Some years ago, I bought some beads with words printed on them. I always meant to write something using them. However, other projects got in the way. Eventually, the beads ended up forgotten at the bottom of one of my boxes. Not long ago, while looking for something else entirely, I rediscovered them. Since I’ve been in experimental writing mode lately, the idea rekindled and caught fire.
First I sorted the beads, then shifted them around into sample sentences. Immediately, I found a problem. Although the set had some interesting words, it was remarkably short of articles. It is almost impossible to write anything vaguely grammatical without “a” and “the.”
Jim suggested we try Michael’s craft store. There I found another set of word beads, not only on the same scale, but even printed in a similar font. This set proved to have the articles I lacked, as well as some useful conjunctions and prepositions.
As I re-sorted, I discovered a new, very interesting, problem. Even with two sets to choose between, there were almost no words that could be used for conflict situations.
“Love” and “peace” appeared repeatedly, but not “hate” or “war.” “Believe,” “always,” and “forever” showed up on numerous beads, but not “doubt” or “never.” “Friend” was very popular, but not any word that could be construed as “Foe.” “Kiss” and “flirt” were in the assortment, but not “slap” or “shun.”
There was one “not,” but that’s not a lot to build on.
As I’ve written elsewhere, conflict is one of the elements that separates a full story from a descriptive vignette. Moreover, I was determined that I wouldn’t take the easy way out and write a romance story. I would write something more demanding.
In addition to the words mentioned above, there were a smattering of nouns, among them princess, sun, star, dancer, girl, boy, secret, song. The verbs were equally limited: learn, run, sing, and dream, for example. The verb “to be” was mostly represented by “is” and “am.” Of course, some words could be used as either noun or verb: love, dream, and flirt immediately came to mind.
Making the challenge even more interesting was that some of the most dynamic words only occurred once: magic, power, pure, wild, true, student, tough. Since I was resolved to use only those words for which I had beads and only as often as I had beads, this meant I’d need to do some careful placing.
A friend to whom I mentioned my project suggested that I search on-line for more word beads, in that way expanding my available vocabulary. I agreed that finding more beads would probably be possible. However, I felt that doing this would transform a story-writing challenge into a bead-finding challenge. Instead, I sat down with my sorted beads and started shuffling.
I lacked any proper nouns, so decided on a first person narrator. Homer and Whitman gave me inspiration for using the verb “sing” to mean “tell” or even “celebrate,” and I was off. Mostly I avoided the temptation to fall into the much easier form of free verse, although I did allow myself two short lines, a total of eight words. Since I have included free verse within other of my prose pieces, I didn’t think that was cheating.
Punctuation was not included in either of the bead sets. I considered leaving it out, but decided it was necessary for controlling the flow. Therefore, I pulled out my Sharpie markers and added commas, periods, and one exclamation point. I debated whether to capitalize as well, since none of the beads other than “I” contained capital letters, but decided that would change the sense of the beads I’d had to work with.
The end result was a six paragraph, 166 word narrative. Originally, I’d planned to sew it onto a piece of felt, but the holes in the beads were not evenly drilled. Instead, I purchased a piece of craft foam and glued down the beads. As a flourish, I decided to follow in the tradition of medieval scribes and illuminate my manuscript using faux gemstones.
Here, for your amusement, is “forever secret.” While I’ve preserved the lowercase element, I have not preserved the line breaks, since they were less a part of the composition, more necessitated by “typesetting” considerations.
I will sing to you of my best friends & me. she is a divine star princess, always laughing. he is the crazy cool sky dance. I am the wishful student of love and dreams.
I am learning to live out of time with my best friends. together, boy, girl, & I flirt with learning to make special, secret power. it is tough, but I believe.
run to the sun/dance on a secret/love to be wild/sport a beautiful smile. now give loud sweet singing from the heart, not perfect, but strong & gentle, happy and sad.
when the happy princess lets in starshine, the dancer laughs like crazy & dances a wish, and I sing lovely dreamsongs from out of time. she, he, & I learn to make dreamtime peaceful & sweetly true.
imagine kissing the great future. see us being a pretty cool team. she, he, & I have the best bright dream forever, & now & forever are pure magic.
Hope you enjoyed!