Get inspired by Andrea Jarrell’s post “A Roar for the Ages,” and tell a broad story using a series of short, focused scenes.

In a guest post on Jenna Schwartz’s blog, writer Andrea Jarrell told a powerful personal story about coming into her voice. What I loved was not just the upshot of the post itself — a woman learning to speak up and finding her self-worth — but how it was written, as a series of eight short snapshots of her life at ages 29, 11, 6, 25, 31, 37, 49, and 53. This week, we challenge you to tell a bigger story using a series of short scenes.

Each section of Andrea’s post tells its own tiny tale of a specific moment in time. Rather than summarizing how she felt at a particular age or telling us about her year generally, she narrows the focus of each section to one experience. One feeling. One moment.

Here’s the writer, age 25:

My boyfriend and I are in the grocery store. We’ve just moved in together. Progresso and Campbell’s soup cans on either side of the aisle, I think it’s safe to be myself. A muzak version of “Burning Down the House” fills the air with a beat you just have to move to. At least I do. My hips gyrate towards him and I lift my arms overhead, the pretty girl at the party enjoying her own flirty display. “Stop that,” he says, hushing and harsh. His eyes not on me but on the old man behind me watching. My arms hang loose and limp as we push the cart past frozen waffles, paper towels, boxes of dried pasta. It will take two more years to realize any man who wants to quiet my hips is not for me.

Need a little help getting started? Check out these posts on how to break posts into sectionshow to improve your descriptive writing, or how to give your photography a boost.

She paints a detailed picture of this single trip to the store — but in these 138 words, she gives us much more than a simple description of grocery shopping. There’s emotion, pain, tension. Each of the eight sections of her post is similarly narrowly and intricately drawn; to read all eight is to come to a broad understanding of Andrea’s personal journey. The sections don’t necessarily flow from one to the next, but the cumulative effect is a rich sense of what she was feeling in those moments and how she grew and changed as a person.

This week, tell us a broad story using small strokes: write a post that uses a series of short snapshots to describe a larger emotion or experience. You can do this no matter how you blog:

  • If you write narrative/prose, aim for a post with at least four sections, using 200 words or fewer in each snapshot.
  • If you’re a poet, try a series of four or more short poems (haiku, anyone?).
  • If you’re a visual artist, share a series of photos or sketches that focus on different details of a larger scene.

Take us on a journey, one small scene at a time.

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