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Constrained Competition

June 23rd, 2015

typewriter-BlogSince we did the limerick competition back in May (click here to read the winning limericks) I’ve been looking into constrained writing – any kind of writing that has to fit a pattern or obey particular rules. We all know some of these: haiku; sonnet; iambic pentameter. Even if you don’t know the specific structures involved, most of us have an idea what they are. But what about univocalic poetry, where verses use only one of the eight available vowels, or chaterism, where the length of words in a phrase increase or decrease in a uniform way, like: “I am the best Greek bowler playing?”

Turns out, there’s all sorts of bizarre forms out there. And some writers even make up their own. Back in 1939 Ernest Vincent Wright self-published a novel called Gadsby containing 50,000 words none of which used the letter ‘E,’ whilst in 2004, French doctor of letters, Michel Dansel, under the pen name Michel Taler brought out Le Train de Nulle Part (The Train From Nowhere,) a novel written entirely without verbs. And let’s not forget Paul Griffith’s 2008 Let Me Tell You which uses only the words spoken by Ophelia in Hamlet.

I can’t imagine doing anything like that (a normal novel is enough for me) but I do enjoy simpler constrained writing forms. Recently I came across a website called Six Sentences, and I bet you’ve already guessed how long the stories are there. I was so tickled by it, I had a go myself, but when it came to posting my story, I couldn’t work out how to do it, so I’m going to put it up here instead:

Deep Blue

Right, I know everyone else loves it, but I’m sick of that Deep Blue mega-programme, telling us all what to do. It was OK at first. Switching the terrorists phones off, locking down the nuclear missiles, posting the bank details of the super-rich on Facebook, all that was great. But it’s everywhere now – in my laptop, my phone, the TV, even the bloody fridge! And alright, I know I shouldn’t go online looking at those pictures of sexy young girls. But how on earth does sending my wife an email with links to my favourite sites make the world a better place?


What do you think? It was fun to write, and a great editing exercise (the first draft was over 150 words long.) Getting folk to read it has been easy too – it’s so short. I’ve even had people laugh out loud at the last line. In fact, it’s gone down so well, the good people here at the Writers Bureau have decided to launch a Six Sentence Story Competition, they’re taking entries now, and the prize is a free Novel and Short Story Writing Course. You can click here for full competition details, and you don’t even have to be a WB student to enter. So what have you got to lose? You might as well get your pen out, or switch your computer on, get those constraints ready and …

Keep on writing!phil-blog-sig

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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