Five Sentence Fiction: “Strangers”

Usually, I reserve my Saturday post space for discussion of the process of writing. But, this week, I had to try my hand at Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction, since I saw the prompt was NIGHT (2012 August 16).

Five sentences is a tricky target to tell a story. It would be relatively easy for me to craft a piece that just used semicolons anywhere there could be a period…but that’s not really how the semicolon should work. (“Don’t think of a semicolon as a strong comma,” says editor Theresa Stevens. “Think of it as a weak period.”) Thus, I wanted to use the semicolon sparingly, yet still create something fresh, and still hold to the rule of five sentences.

This one is quite flirty, though I should think not quite NSFW-worthy. As always, though, I leave you to be the judge.


He’d never been propositioned in a club before (he’d never been in a club before), but the reward for such daring…! She was as he’d never known: wild, wanton, full of eager lust; the kisses started the minute they’d left the pounding, primal rhythms behind, only to be reprised -more rhythmic, more primal- not long after, in their sparse Whitechapel hotel room.

The bells tolled three before she was finally satisfied, and, while exhausting, it was wonderful.

With morning, propriety returned, as he’d known it must. But, he’d always remember playing strangers in the night, with his bold, brilliant wife.


Ars Erotica. One of my favorites of the bunch.

So, to sort of stay on topic, what are your feelings on the use of semicolons in prose?


18 thoughts on “Five Sentence Fiction: “Strangers”

  1. hot, steamy, unexpected, and terrific. As you expected, I did not expect the ending… although my wife and I have tried our hands at this before. I’m still smiling as I write this. Thanks, Randy


    • Thank you, Randy. I’m glad this little vignette managed to make you smile. It made me do, as well, considering the possibilities. (I tried this, too, with my husband, on a much smaller scale. Must be a creative person thing! πŸ˜€ )


    • Thank you, Jayne. I wanted to try something different with this couple, but still keep them exciting. πŸ™‚

      I liked your take on the prompt, too!


  2. In response to your question about semicolons, I love them and do not do think of them as weak periods; they add baubles and dangles to already impressive sentences. Too many though can weaken a paragraph, changing the ebb and flow. But pacing and intent aside, a semicolon can be very effective in keeping a reader’s interest – wouldn’t you agree?

    I wouldn’t “cheat” in a five sentence prompt by overuse of a semicolon just to keep a piece to the five sentence limit; or even recommend using a lot of punctuation marks (and gimmicks, such as parentheses) in order to add depth. These devices will only detract the reader from the intended affect of the piece. πŸ˜‰
    Randy ( wow. I think I said that in 5 sentences)


    • Nicely put, Randy.

      I agree that a semicolon (or other devices, like parentheses, dashes, ellipses) can be great tools, if not overused. For first or quick drafts, they’re fine, but I think it shows more skill when we can edit them down, and allow more of our voices – and less of our gimmicks – show through. That said, I do sometimes love what they can do to help the flow of a paragraph!


  3. Great piece, steamy, sexy, romantic.

    I think semi-colons have their place like any punctuation mark, but I do use them sparingly, like I do with exclamation points. I think they tend to stick out and grab the reader’s attention, maybe even in a distracting way. They also seem to have an ‘official’ ring to them, if that makes sense. Almost too techinical looking.


    • Thanks, Kate.
      I agree about semicolons. Sometimes, I like the way they can help a paragraph (usually description) flow, but I do try not to overuse them. Exclamation points, too, and ellipses, parentheses, dashes. The list goes ever on! πŸ˜€ I’ve also tried, in my revisions, to cut down on a lot of the overly flowery stuff; one of my peers once told me, “There’s nothing wrong with using plain old ‘said.'” Clear is starting to work better for me, now that I’m working on revising, than it’s ever seemed to do. πŸ™‚


  4. Most definitely a flirty piece of fiction:)) Nicely done!

    With regards to semi-colons, I believe them to be the most incorrectly used punctuation mark, eclipsing even the colon for that dubious honour. In 5 sentence fiction, I find semi-colons useful but only for joining two sentences, complete on their own but worthy of being connected to form one complete compound sentence because of their complementary ideas.


    • Thanks, Jo-Anne! I have a predisposition toward flirty, with these two characters. πŸ™‚

      I’ve noticed a lot of young writers especially using semicolons improperly. I think everyone should take a refresher course in the elements of style before they publish anything, even to the web! πŸ˜€


  5. I really liked how this turned at the end, and the simple matching you did with rhythm and pulse. I agree about the semi-colons (I’ve seen some pretty bad misuse in FSF, haha, and been guilty of it myself). This was well done!


    • Thank you, Brian. I sometimes try to play too much with rhythm in words, but I like how this one turned out, too.

      Sometimes, that five-sentence rule means we’ve got to push grammar a bit to its limit! πŸ˜€


  6. Oh, how very exciting, in a misdirecting kind of way. It reminds me of “If You Like Pina Coladas”, re-injecting an flirtatious and even lustful energy into a marriage as they both pursue each other once again. (Not the case in the song exactly, but I like to think it’s the same outcome πŸ™‚ )
    I think your punctuation use is just fine, as breaking the parts into separate sentences simply fragments them, leaving not quite enough for either to stand on their own.

    Awesome work Mayumi!


  7. A seedy motel and a not-so-seedy encounter. Love the delicious and unexpected contrast you provided!

    Nice use of the semi-colon as well. These pesky creatures always keep me a bit baffled. I’m sure I use them incorrectly at times, which really bothers me!


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