Short and Long – #FlashFiction

The third exercise from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft is called Short and Long. First, write a paragraph in sentences of 7 words or less, no fragments. Then, write a paragraph that is all one sentence. I decided to choose the same subject matter for both of the pieces of flash fiction that follow. Which do you think works better?

The red sky burned brighter than fire. Streaks of smoke filled the air. Screaming children ran through smoking fields. Orange embers drifted through the air. Dead grass swayed in the wind. Singed leaves floated down the river. Heat swelled beyond the fire’s edge. It burst forward, ever expanding. The front grew, gobbling up acres. The blaze swallowed farms whole. It spit out charred tree skeletons. Blackness trailed the flames. A small girl’s lungs constricted. Her breathing was slow and labored. Her wheezes were louder than the fire. Her steps slowed. Her energy waned. She stumbled, falling to her knees. Then, she grew silent.

The wind roared as fire crackled into the air, smoke rising up and up and up into the blood red sky, a sky more fierce and vibrant than flames, a sky filled with thick smoke, particles, sparks, and embers floating through the air, landing in blackened fields dotted with the skeletons of trees still steaming; children ran through these fields, fast as their little legs could carry them, screaming though their lungs burned–one young girl in particular, wheezing, coughing, sputtering as she stumbled, falling to her knees amid charred soil, energy waning as she gasped her last breaths while small feet pounded past her upturned face.

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