The Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge

claudette young


By Claudette Young


In today’s world of instant communication and books that roll across a phone’s screen, the art of using words, phrases and clauses seems to have fallen by the wayside. Readers want something they can zip through in less than a few hours, with sentences rarely over fifteen words in length. We’ve lost the ability to think and write in complex, nuance-heavy sentences, like those of William Faulkner and others of his era.

In case you didn’t know or haven’t read him, a perfect description of his technique expressed it this way.  ‘ … The Faulknerian sentence is an irresistible labyrinth.” His lengthiest sentence ran for 1,288 words in Absalom, Absalom. This was later surpassed by Jonathan Coe in 2001 with a sentence that took 33 pages to print.

Faulkner wasn’t alone. The greats of yesteryear all wrote involuted, complex sentences meant to mesmerize the reader, pulling them into the story and refusing to let them go.

Now’s your chance to test your skills against the greats. For the month of March, The Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge will accept entries by any writer brave enough to tackle the challenge of writing the perfect (or not) lengthy sentence.

NOTE: While I, as organizer, will throw in my own sentences on occasion, I am not competing. I’m just playing along for fun. 

We will have a judge (as yet to be announced).


  1. Any sentence, any subject: must be minimum of fifty (50) words
  2. All sentences must be grammatically correct and not simply run-ons
  3. No maximum word count to sentences
  4. Have fun and play with your words. The sentences can be as fanciful as the writer wishes, or as outrageous, etc. so long as they are coherent and grammatically correct.

Be prepared to up your game, but the most important aspect of this challenge is to express your thoughts, use plenty of phrases and clauses, and challenge others to do their best.

There will be small prizes for top placers. Grand Prize: Writer’s journal Book: First Prize: Book on Grammar; Second and Third Prizes: Decorative Bookmarks

The Challenge will run until April 1st, and prizes will be announced by Tax Day in April and sent out immediately thereafter.

To play, send your entries beginning March 1st to the Facebook page Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge. All writers are welcome and encouraged to participate. Win or lose, everyone will get the chance to stretch their use of words and their understanding of language.

Here’s hoping many will enter, for both the experience of playing with long sentences and to see how others approach the challenge.

Good luck to all who play.


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