Ford in driveway. Daddy an attorney. Mommy works too. Sister bounces me. Little gray house. Willow tree bends. Retriever on porch. Brass candlesticks gleam. Smell of cookies. Grandmother knits—clackety. I stay close. Radio in hand. I fear darkness.



  1. Constance Malloy

    I get the picture so clearly in these spare sentences. The change up with “Grandmother knits—clackety.” and the use of onomatopoeia seemed placed perfectly to me. I like how you awaken the senses moving from sight to smell to sound in three sentences. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Meg Tuite

    Hi Melanie,
    I love that you worked the 3 word sentences. My only concern is that there is no tension until that last sentence. I’m hoping you will give more in your rewrite. LOVE!

  3. Al Kratz

    very invoking and reminiscent and I imagine a good spring board for finding story, for finding the tension and escalation Meg mentions. Also think from this it might be fun to see what a lead of the consecutive 3 worders looks like paired with a long climactic many-word sentence pairs with it and answers the melody.

  4. Francine Witte

    Love how you have used the three word sentences to build a natural rhythm. I do agree with Al that a long sentence put in toward the end would work very well.

  5. sara lippmann

    Hi Melanie, I’m so happy to see you working the three word prompt. What you have on the page is already so evocative (the ford, the little gray house, the radio in hand.) What I love about this prompt is how generative it can be on the quick, sifting out key details and salient moments in a life. (I don’t know if you kept going through the decade and then pared down but I do wonder if there’s more) Meg mentioned tension, which is a good point. This exercise — three words — can knock out great imagery, which you have — and it can also force the imperative “i fear darkness” — by virtue of its constraints. When we get to that line it’s so huge, and such a sharp contrast to the relatively benign and sunny imagery that precedes it. This prompt encourages the writer to think about a subject verb object construction, and I love how you both employ that (i fear darkness) and reject it for three word associations, descriptions, which makes the declarative really pop when it comes.(I read this as safety, safety, safety, terror.) 1960s. Radio. That context, what is she listening to? The fear, coming from beyond the reaches of the porch, etc. l I’m so into this, that I’d love to see more. Three words sentences force us to think about verbs and word choice selectivity and what verbs will help steer the imperative and shake out the takeaway. As Al mentioned, you can break from the “rules of the prompt” any time — and move away from the three word sentences when they no longer serve you, and integrate some longer sentences as well. Stay with this!

    • Melanie Haws

      Thank you, Sara. I loved this prompt and wrote quite a bit for every decade. I did try to stay with the three words for the challenge of it and was going for a suburban pastoral and the often unfounded fears of childhood. Maybe I do need a bit more of a set up to the last line.

  6. John Steines

    Hello Melanie – I thought of going the 3 word sentence route and couldn’t get beyond the third sentence. Good job. This feels like pending war to me, nuclear. I’m wary of reading too much in though. Amazing what you can do with that constriction. Settles and stays with me too.

  7. Patricia Bidar

    Fantastic job making the MC’s life clear–and in three word sentences! Memorable details. I get the impression of a very quiet household, where fears go unspoken. For me, the fear of darkness is super important, although I don’t think you need to end with it. Love the suggestions.

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