20 sentence scene

As my very first post to “The Sorry Songbird,” I will be posting some brand new writing for Boot Hill. I used an exercise given to me from my intermediate fiction professor, and it is one of the few that I found useful. I posted this on my old blog, but here is the exercise one more time for everyone’s reference–and I encourage you to give it a whirl if you haven’t already.

Write a 20-sentence scene with two characters. Each sentence must incorporate the specifications below, respectively:

  1. A sentence with a wall or boundary in it
  2. A sentence with weather (temperature, wind, air) in it
  3. A sentence with a sound in it
  4. A sentence with a gesture in it
  5. A line of dialogue of six words or less
  6. A sentence with light in it
  7. A line of dialogue of ten words or more
  8. A sentence with a ceiling or floor in it
  9. A sentence with a texture (the feel of something) in it
  10. A sentence with an object smaller than a hand in it
  11. A sentence with an allusion to literature or art in it
  12. A sentence fragment
  13. A sentence with a piece of furniture in it
  14. A line of dialogue that is a question
  15. Another line of dialogue that is a question
  16. A sentence with a hand or fingers in it
  17. A sentence with a dash in it
  18. A sentence with an allusion to a current event in it
  19. A sentence with a metaphor in it
  20. A line of dialogue that is whispered

Here is mine. I didn’t follow the sentence structure completely, but I tried to stay as close as I could. It needs some revision and expansion, but it’s a great skeleton for the actual scene when it’s done. Enjoy!

I retrace my steps back to the dead-end in the labyrinthine slot canyon, relieved by the sight of Finch’s piles of trinkets, books, poorly-folded clothing, and water skins he has stored here over the years. The pummeling heat outside hardly touches the bottom of the ravine, and I shudder as I sit down and lean against the cool, gritty wall across from Finch, next to a crooked stack of leather-bound books. I pluck the top book from the stack and open it. The spine cracks with age and neglect, and the words inside are faint, barely legible. The writing style seems vaguely familiar.

“Should’ve left you back there,” Finch says, shaking his head. He rolls his good shoulder backwards and stretches his legs out so that they touch the only patch of sunlight peeking between the canyon’s narrow, jagged walls.

“And what’s keeping you from doing it?” I say, clenching my fists. “Right now. I never asked to ride your coat tails.” Part of me fears the possibility that he might follow my advice. “I didn’t ask for this.”

Finch doesn’t respond. I wait for some time but he has averted his eyes and won’t look up at me. I set the unread book in my hands beside me, yank my boots and sweat-stained socks off, and fling them aside, dipping my toes beneath the cold, smooth sand. The tiny grains adhere to my damp feet, and I don’t bother to try and shake them off. I pick up another book from the pile and open it. Written in bold, frantic script on the inside cover: “Quinn.” I stare at the inscription, stunned.

“Where did you find these?” I ask, grabbing at another one of the books to check the inside cover. There it is again. Quinn.

Finch quickly asks, “Do they mean anything to you?”

My thumb catches on a corner of a page near the end of the book, and I part the pages. There are words, but for some inexplicable reason I’m too afraid to read them–too afraid to see whatever connection it holds to Finch. The gunslinger stands with some difficulty, careful of his injured arm in my makeshift sling, and begins to walk toward me. He crouches down so that his face is only a cricket’s wing from mine.

He inclines his head near my ear and whispers, “What do you know about him?”


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