Sunday, May 29, 2011

Expansion Joints Challenge: part 13: "Sacrifce"

When this exercise was hosted over at Porky's Expanse!, he always chose the word for the Expanders! challenge based on some relevant happening. The explanation of how this week's word was chosen is long: I understand if you don't want to wade through it. The clever among you know what to do if that is the case.

Here in the US, we are in the middle of the weekend leading up to Memorial Day, which this year falls on its original date of May 30th. For many people here, this holiday is barely a blip on their radar; it simply means a chance to have three days off in a row, or a chance to celebrate the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation, a chance to shop the sales, a day to break out the barbecue and the beer and party. This has always mystified me. For my family, remembering dead soldiers was never a abstract idea: we have a long tradition of military service, and there were and are always names and faces, stories and pictures of men - brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, brothers-in-arms, some generations back, others fresh in memory - who went away and never came home. Iraq and Afghanistan have only added to the roster. So, even though they might make for interesting choices in other circumstances, the words that most of my neighbors might choose for this week fall flat for me: "grill", "tan", "break", or "shop" are not on the list right now. Still, I understand that what is so intensely personal for people who have lost (or even risked) family and friends in military service can not have the same meaning for those who have never had that experience, so "lose", "cry", and even "remember" wouldn't really work in general, and none of them express the mood of the day clearly, anyway. The sense that I have the urge to convey has much more to do with the reasons why these people did what they did, and the reasons why it is worthy of honor and respect, rather than the simple fact that they died, which, after all, is something none of us (or very few, depending on your religious persuasion) get to avoid. It is something that is deeply tied up with the concept of heroism, which is, of course, a huge element of fiction, particularly in Fantasy and SF. The only word that I can find that has even one meaning that captures what I find so compelling about the day, that essence of being willing to give up everything so that something more important is preserved, is "sacrifice", and that is the word for the week.

If you aren't familiar with the Expansion Joints project, it all began over at Porky's Expanse!.

The rules are just as they are described over at Porky's: as much narrative as you can cram into fifteen words, one of which must be the word of the week.

This can take the form of

1. An epyllion,or litle epic, a stand-alone fifteen-word narrative, or

2. An epos, or 'epic'. Instead of an independent 15-word story, you can choose to develop someone else's story from a previous week, or extend your own story from week to week. Just write the next installment. If it has 15 words, uses the word of the week, and continues the story, you've done it.

There are two important things to think about if you choose epos. First, you should have the permission of the person who wrote the story you will develop. If anyone writes a 15-word epyllion or adds to an epos and is happy for others to develop it later, please say so, with something like 'for use in an epos'. Second, by using specific elements of someone else's story, we technically create a derivative work, so it's best to avoid this.

There are a number of generous contributors who have given express permission to use some of their writing as the basis for epos:

Porky, the founder of the project, offers up all of his contributions.

GDMNW has opened up the three stories here.

Dave G_Nplusplus makes any of his Expanders! stories available for use in an epos.

Arlequin has an epos running on his Expanders! page, and he has graciously extended permission to play with any or all of the contributions there.

Andy, over at The Creepy Corridor, has also made his epos posts available for expansion.

And, as always, feel free to use any of the stories on this blog that are tagged as "Expansion Joints" in an epos.

Words that have previously made an appearance in an Expanders!/Expansion Joints include: food, fort, stuff, elf, rogue, pass, fool, hammer, note, temper, table, twisted, and missing, in case you are of an historical bent, or wish to write a complete set.

When you've finished writing your entry for this week, either post your 15-word story directly in the comments here, or leave a link in the comments to the blog page where we can find it.


  1. An interesting one and very apt. The equivalent for us in the UK is the Sunday closest to Armistice Day (11/11), but there is no accompanying holiday.

    I've gone the opposite way, personal survival as opposed to the greater good;

    Today's 'little problem' had resulted in the sacrifice of scavenged items in return for life.

    The rest is at my expanders new home

  2. You are doing a marvelous job creating a story here. I can't wait to see where it will go next.

    We celebrate 11/11 here, too, originally as "Armistice Day", but since WWII as "Veteran's Day". One for the living, one for the dead.

  3. Good stuff, Jim - another intriguing prospect.

    I haven't forgotten. I'm just looking for the flash of inspiration or the right opening, whichever comes first.

  4. I say that the sacrifce of angels can be seen in the actions of soldiers.


  5. @Jennie - That's where the British go wrong imo, we don't separately acknowledge the sacrifice of the living as well as the dead, while the majority of people are supportive of our armed forces, there is no official recognition as a nation outside of mourning.

    @Porky - C'mon, you're slacking man! :)

    @CK - Like it, but if you'll accept criticism, I'd swap 'sacrifice' and 'actions' round.

  6. @ Arlequín - I go back and forth with that combination depending on the day. I like it both ways to be honest.

    BTW... no problem with the critique... I spent 21 years in the Army... I can take a few choice words or hide in the corner just the same!


  7. Here we go then - my latest. Limbering up for the next.

    @ Captain Kellen & Arlequín - That first arrangement does read deep though.

  8. I kinda lost sight on this ... oops! How many did I miss?

    I'll be catching up soon!