One of my favorite writing exercises is something I call Triplets. First choose three words at random from the dictionary or a book. Then use all of them in a sentence or a paragraph, beginning a story. Take it from there.
I’ve recently changed the exercise a bit, choosing four words instead of three, and making sure there’s at least one noun, one verb—either a specific tense or any, and one adjective.
Here are some examples.
bought ( “ )
The gilded book of Italian santi, bought in Venice on her second honeymoon (the week with its full moon that really clung to all of her senses like honey in its waxen comb, with bees and buzz and all), hadn’t mentioned any particularly inspirational saint that week. She’d looked in vain each day, that spring almost then years after Venice. That chill, damp May during which she could feel her whole self being wasted, minute by minute. Where were the saints who could save her? She turned pages, looking ahead, behind, searching.
The edict had gone out on Twitter on Tuesday: all silver was to be surrendered to the nearest collection point. Elsa carried her mother’s cream pitcher to the middle school next door, wrapped in a bag she’d made of her daughter’s powder blue t-shirt. Carried it as softly as a baby bird. The items jumbled together on the institutional folding table ranged from jumping trophies to antique frames to a pocket flask engraved with the letters JSJM, in an ornate script. As each new item was surrendered, the brisk Brunhilde running the drop was unreservedly triumphant, watching the old order vanish into the treasury of the god Homogeneity, whose temple was being shaped of molten silver, poured into a square, equal-sided mold, one hundred forty-eight feet deep and wide and high, as high as the resting place of Mausolus, the king who named the mausoleum.
My fidanzata gave the finishing touches to the garlicky mayonnaise—what she called aioli in her charming and tricky tongue. It was her grandmother’s recipe, she told my curious sisters, her grandmother who had kept men from dying (some, sometimes) in the Crimean War. Luce, my Lucia, made the aioli always with a pensive grimace, remembering her grandmère’s pain, the final moments of soldiers she’d taken on herself in writing down their stories.