Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin, Exercise.3.2. (LONG SENTENCES)


In this part of her book ‘Steering the Craft – A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story’, Ursula K. Le Guin proposes to attempt to write half a page to a page of narrative that is all ONE LONG SENTENCE. This is the contrary of what was asked in the previous exercise: requiring us to write only short sentences: https://issadioumewriter.com/2019/02/15/style-training-with-ursula-k-le-guin-exercise-3-1/. I attempted this exercise and used an unreliable narrator that slowly reveals themselves as the story progresses. PUNCTUATION is permitted, unlike of her other exercises where we wrote without any.
Version 2:https://issadioumewriter.com/2018/09/13/style-training-with-ursula-k-le-guin-exercise-2-am-i-saramago-2nd-attempt/
Version 1: https://issadioumewriter.com/2018/09/13/usulakleguinstyletraining3/

350 words exercise:

“He was tall, smart, and not the least bit self-admiring; indeed, it proved most delightful a watch to observe him navigate the seas of life with the ease of a fish; and, were you to be extremely lucky, you might have caught sight of him shirk away his responsibilities, over champagne, no less, or fish-roe covered sushis, on any given night (both of which often adorned the tables he attended); and, you might even have detected then, with great effort, astutely (which I easily did), how his laughter – so particular to him – echoed about the air with a stark, grating hollowness to it, stowed far below the many layers of his voice; and, how, treacherously, it relayed the inner-workings of his mind: it’s sadness and gloom, it’s loneliness; and the fact that, for the longest time, it had remained thus: friendless, monstrously weary, with no appreciation from others whatsoever, longing for the arrival of a companion of its kind: one it may appreciate mingling with; exchanging esoteric thoughts with; emotions with (or even skinship); one which boasted the same sharpness, same alertness he possessed, had possessed, since he first was introduced to the comfort of a cradle, and the warm, appeasing arms of a breasted parent; and yes, undeniably, the sole members of his ‘highbrow’ following consisted principally of those awful addle-minded creatures he humoured in pubs back then, or those lesser intellectuals he desperately attempted to fix, for he knew his words to be the rightest, soundest words ever spoken aloud ─ but after we met, all those ‘nuisances’ gradually disappeared, I made sure of it; and the day of our convergence of fates, one fortuitous spring evening, he encountered a delectable mind: mine ; and, when I found him, inebriated, yearning what I was, and professing his love for philosophy, I knew I would bed him that night; and that, once done, I would hold him abreast, stroke his hair and tell him that, despite everything, despite the world being filled with simians, we, at last, had found in each other, a fellow human being.

I used a highly unreliable narrator in this 350-word piece. The unreliableness of this narrator gradually comes to be revealed as the story progresses. Because the narrator is in love with the man she describes, we are led to question her trustworthiness. Especially the question of his none self-admiration. Also, her motifs can be brought into question. Why did she approach him? Parenthesis are used here, whenever she compliments herself, inadvertently revealing a part of herself to us.

What can you learn? Well, I was surprised by the change in the sound of my prose. I don’t usually dare to write sentences which fly over 20 words or so… It feels daunting. But I think writers should test this exercise, some might be quite surprised to find their voice/style better in long sentences.

15 thoughts on “Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin, Exercise.3.2. (LONG SENTENCES)

  1. It seems to me that the idea is to write a piece in such a way that the reader doesn’t notice that it’s one long sentence. That’s what’s hard, as it’s easy to write the way children write, with ‘and then’ linking what are really separate phrases. I tried to keep a story line going that doesn’t sound too laborious.

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  2. Hmm well George Elliot used and a lot not the ‘then’ though , as well as Woolf. Not sure they wrote like children. 🙂 Indeed it’s tough to do! Requires a lot of thought.

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  3. Do I ramble on? 😦 Hmm I will have to fix things if that is so… only wrote in 30 minutes because the exercise asks us to, it’s obviously far from perfect.

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  4. No, I didn’t say that, I was referring to the technique children use of adding their thoughts one after the other with an ‘and then’ so you get a string of events in a sort of stream of consciousness.

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