8FOLD: Journey Into # 13: The Five Graph Trap!

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 21 08:25:30 PDT 2010

> > > This story doesn't only reflect the death trap theme in its substance,
> > > but I also consciously trapped myself formally in writing it by using
> > > The Five Paragraph Strait-Jacket, as we used the standard format for
> > > both essays and creative writing back in high school.

Er, that should be "as we used to call the standard format" or,
alternatively, "as we used to bristle at the standard format".

> Hmm.  I forgot everything I learned about writing in high school, so I
> don't recall if I ever learned about five-paragraph form.

For essays, it was one paragraph of introduction, three paragraphs of
development or support, and a final concluding/summarizing paragraph.
Earlier than High School, the form was even more restrictive, with
each paragraph containing only five sentences: an introduction, three
supporting details, and a conclusion.  Twenty-five sentences, each
with absolutely no mystery or surprise, and all the teacher had to do
was skim the paper, check them off her list, and scribble a grade up

For fiction, it was looser, but the basic restriction-- five
paragraphs long, nothing more and nothing less, remained in place when
dealing with less creative creative writing teachers.

> > > Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed it.
> > I did!
> Yeah, me too.  I found the short length refreshing, and that run-on
> sentence in the first paragraph actually sounded great from a villain.

Thanks, gents.

Though in my defense, I will say that that sentence is not a run-on,
as a run-on consists of two-plus complete/independent clauses without
conjunction or the correct punctuation.  That sentence, while long, is
comprised of two lists, joined by a colon; the first list details how
things fell apart for the villain, ending with the revelation that he
had planned on this all along.  The second lists how he made that
escape, emphasizing how he planned for it (hence the joining of the
two lists by the colon, the second list being an explanation for the
finale of the first).  The final item in the second list is a
deviation; rather than reveal how he planned for escape, it reveals
how he's already set into motion the plan for his next attempt.  One
could mount the argument that that particular clause is out of place
(though, given the use of coordinating conjunction, it would still not
make the sentence a run-on), but it's intended as the "surprise" of
the list, the final item punchline/revelation, and thus the whole
point of the sentence itself: this is how far ahead he plans.  The
final item is intended, then, as the pay-off not only for both lists,
but for the sentence's length.

I'm not disputing, of course, that it is a long sentence-- some 207
words, if I'm not mistaken-- and perhaps even a difficult one (using
difficult in the best sense of the word), and that, yes, it does I
think mimic the villain's line-of-thinking pretty well.  And so I'm
very glad to accept the compliment, and I hope I don't appear
ungracious or a nitpicker.

It's just that I take very great pains to avoid run-ons in my
narrative description (dialogue is another matter) and it's something
I'm more than a little pendantic about.  No offense intended, and I
hope none is taken.


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